Born into one of the Big Three families of the Enchanter realm, 17-year-old Finna Claremont’s lineage—yeah, lineage—should mean she’ll make a great guardian…. Right.
Bloom, by Ranee` S. Clark
“You couldn’t swim it. There’s no way. It’s miles out there.” My cousin Ellie’s voice was incredulous, the only indication of a reaction to her brother Madden’s intended swimming expedition. I looked up from my book to eye them both.
“People swim the English Channel, and it’s over 20 miles,” Mads said. He leaned back on his elbows, staring across the perfectly pristine, blue water in front of us toward the jagged rocks that broke the surface in the distance. “It’s only fifteen to the protection border.”
Ellie lay on her back in the sand, trying to perfect her tan before we left the beach house that afternoon. Over-large, white rimmed sunglasses covered her expressions until now. She tipped them up and rolled her head over to scowl at Mads.
“How do you even know stuff like that?”
“First grade geography.”
She slipped the glasses back over her eyes and returned to her tanning position. “You would remember something stupid like that.” Ellie hated it when Mads flaunted the fact that he was a year older than us and presumably smarter and more entitled.
I closed my book and turned over. Leaning up onto my elbows like Mads, I scrutinized the ever-present gray clouds that swirled in the direction Mads gazed. Those and the sharp, gray rocks kept any boats, big or small, from entering the protected waters surrounding the small continent Enchanters called home.
“Even if you could swim fifteen miles, you’d never get past the rocks.” I smiled at Mads, shrugging.
“Or have enough energy to get back,” Ellie said, sounding smug.
“And even if you did accomplish the amazing feat, your mom would probably kill you the minute you stepped back onto the beach.” I laughed and flipped back over to continue my book. “I’m pretty sure it’d take a few months of training.”
Our pessimistic predictions didn’t seem to intimidate Mads. A moment later he stood, shook the sand off, and headed toward the water, a determined expression on his face. I glanced over at Ellie and rolled over again. Both of us hoisted ourselves out of the soft, powdery sand, leaning into our hands. He took his first steps into the water. We stared, our eyebrows raised.
“Mads! Ellie!” Aunt Carey’s voice echoed in my thoughts, even though she hadn’t meant to call for me. One of the minor dangers of that kind of Enchanter communication is allowing others to hear your thoughts when you opened your mind to ‘talk’ to someone.
Mads paused, looking guilty when he turned back up toward the beach.
“Yeah?” he and Ellie answered at the same time.
“Are your bags packed? We’re leaving in an hour.”
“Coming.” Mads jogged up the beach, flicking water at Ellie on the way by. He sounded relieved. Was it because his mom hadn’t caught him or because he didn’t have to try the swim?
Ellie groaned, both inwardly and audibly.
“Hurry up,” Aunt Carey prodded. “You left clothes all over your room.”
“Ugh.” This time Ellie kept her disgust between us. She flopped back down, obviously trying to prolong her last minutes on the beach.
“How about you, Finna? Your dad didn’t say when he wanted to leave, but I’m sure it will be soon. You guys have school in the morning.”
I scowled out at the water. I didn’t like being reminded that we were leaving paradise.
“Packed this morning,” I informed my aunt and turned to smile at Ellie mockingly. She stuck her tongue out.
“Thank you, Finna. That’s very thoughtful.” Aunt Carey directed a reprimand at Ellie between the lines of my praise.
I giggled and turned back to the water, digging my toes into the sand and wiggling them around. Looking out into the distance at the water spraying around the rocks, I heaved an enormous sigh of regret. The summer was ending. My personal peace was ending. At least I’d already packed my bags so I could watch the last of my summer vacation slip away from the comfort of the beach.
If only the magical storm and the rocks would keep Grandmother out. If only the fact that Grandmother had vacationed in the outside world for three months could make her forget the Enchanter realm was here, invisible in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. If only her and Grandfather would decide they liked Europe more than Enchanter realm and move there permanently.
“Eloise Cliona Alexander, get up here and pack your clothes before I come down there and transport you myself!”
I jumped, Aunt Carey’s voice startling me after the quiet interval.
Ellie rolled over and finally pushed herself up. “Incoming…,” she muttered. I followed her gaze, grimacing. Maeve Monroe strutted up the beach in front of two girls I didn’t recognize. We’d avoided the Monroes most of the time during out stay at the beach, but the fact that we chose the same little village for our vacation as them didn’t cheer anybody in our family. So much for spending my last few minutes here in peace.
If I didn’t hate Maeve so much, I probably would’ve been jealous. All the guys she passed on the beach stopped to smile and stare at her when she glided by, raven black curls swept attractively off her face by the light breeze. Her simple, black bikini did its job well, showing off a perfect body. Actually, looking like that made it easier to hate her.
“Let’s go,” I thought the command at my cousin and grabbed my book.
“Right behind you,” Ellie assured me.
A sudden spray of sand cut off our escape up the beach. The giggle behind us identified the obvious culprit. Ellie spun around, but I grabbed her arm.
“Don’t bother with her.”
“That’s right,” Maeve called out, her voice taunting. “Run away, little girls. You’re no match for a Monroe anyway.”
Ellie pointed a finger, sending a stunner toward the group. The sand around Maeve exploded. The three girls screamed and scattered. Maeve recovered her composure and stalked up the sand toward us. The other two hovered near the water’s edge looking like they didn’t want to get into the middle of a fight with Ellie or Maeve. I couldn’t blame them. I didn’t want to either.
“Try again,” Maeve taunted. “Maybe this time you can hit me!”
Neither side aimed to actually hit someone with our stunners. On more powerful Enchanters, the bolts of light caused serious damage, but neither Ellie, Maeve, nor especially me were strong enough to do more than burn our opponent.
Now that Maeve mentioned it, both she and Ellie shot right at each other. Maeve’s next stunner seared across Ellie’s forearm just before my cousin’s shield appeared. Maeve laughed triumphantly when Ellie’s retaliation bounced off the simple, black, oval-shaped shield that materialized in front of Maeve.
“Do something!” I tensed when I heard Ellie’s exasperated thoughts. I didn’t blame her for wanting help. With two on one, we should’ve humiliated Maeve quickly. We should have been able to, except Ellie only had me. Stunning, bonding, shields, transporting—I mess up daily on a whole list of Enchanter powers.
Maeve laughed again, this time eyeing me. “Really, Ellie? You want your helpless cousin on your side. It’s probably best if she stays out of it.”
I frowned and snapped my fingers, intending to transport behind Maeve. Instead I appeared practically on top of her and knocked her over. Ellie doubled over with laughter. I’ve screwed up my transportations since preschool, so I was sure Ellie was laughing at the large goose egg forming on Maeve’s head and not at me. Maeve probably would’ve laughed at my inexpert transportation, but she looked too mad I messed up her face for the first day of school.
I appeared back at Ellie’s side, a shower of stunners raining down on both of us. Luckily Ellie’s shield protected us, intercepting Maeve’s stunners with tiny, blue bolts of electricity that leapt off the silver plate in front of Ellie. I did have a couple red welts on my arm from where the stunners slid around the shield. I would’ve tried to bring up my own shield, but it was basically useless.
And then I knew before she did it that Maeve would try and stun us from behind. Acting instinctively, I shoved Ellie down into the sand a split second before Maeve reappeared behind us. She cried out in frustration when her stunners flew over our heads.
“Nice save, Finna.” Already back on her feet, Ellie shot a stunner at Maeve.
Too bad I can’t help except on accident, I thought sarcastically to myself.
Maeve snickered, aiming her next stunner at the sand behind us. “I’m sure Eloise regrets that too!” Her amusement returned as another shower of sand surrounded us.
My face burned. Blocking my thoughts from other’s view is another problem I have with my powers, especially when I get emotional. The last time Ellie accidently let the guy next to her hear that she thought he was cute was like, third grade. The last time I did it was earlier that morning. I let loose a frustrated growl and tried stunning Maeve. The weak bolts rebounded off her shield with cute, little pinging noises.
“What’s going on here?” Aunt Carey appeared. Ellie and Maeve’s shields and stunners disappeared. Unfortunately I accidently grazed Aunt Carey’s arm with a stunner meant for Maeve.
Aunt Carey closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Maeve giggled.
“Sorry,” I said, barely moving my lips.
“What’s going on here?” Aunt Carey repeated.
“Nothing, Mrs. Alexander.” Maeve’s amusement disappeared from her expression. I glared at her, wishing I could shoot stunners out of my eyes.
Aunt Carey’s gaze wheeled to me and Ellie. “Just practicing for tomorrow at school.” Ellie stared meaningfully at Maeve.
“Oh, please,” Maeve mouthed behind Aunt Carey’s back.
Aunt Carey didn’t waste any more time. “Let’s go,” she commanded. Magical authority rang in her voice, and my legs immediately moved. It didn’t surprise me Aunt Carey used a bond to get us up to the beach house. Ellie resisted at first, but then trudged behind me. Ellie glared at Maeve as Ellie stalked by. Maeve eyed us triumphantly, like she’d won the duel. Well, I guess she wasn’t marching up the beach behind her aunt. Actually, my feet obeyed Aunt Carey so readily I skipped a few steps ahead of her. I wasn’t very good at breaking bonds either. Big surprise there.
Aunt Carey glared at Ellie. “You. Upstairs. Pack.”
Ellie involuntarily snapped her fingers and disappeared.
“Back to the house, Finna.” When she turned to me, Aunt Carey’s tone lacked the authority that sent Ellie moving without hesitation. “I don’t know what’s keeping your dad, but he’ll probably show up any minute.”
I nodded and snapped my fingers, running smack into the front door opening. I rubbed my head and Mads grinned. I don’t know what he finds so funny about my mess-ups anymore. Aunt Carey glanced at me from the other side of the doorway and tried not to look annoyed.
Uncle Connor appeared behind his son with an armful of luggage, and I jumped out of the way just in time.
“Someone is going to have to help me transport all this back to Cemuc.” He eyed Mads, handing off a few of Aunt Carey’s bags.
“Get your bag, Finna, so you’re ready when Colm shows up.” I caught the irritated bite in Aunt Carey’s voice as she eyed the room expectantly. She’d probably called for Dad several times. I loved my Aunt Carey to death. In fact, she was a thousand times more bearable to live with than Grandmother, but it was easy to see where Aunt Carey got her bossy streak. All in all, I’d much rather stay at the beach house with Aunt Carey than return to the big, brick house in Cemuc I lived in with my dad and grandparents.
I scowled and snapped my fingers. That’s how Aunt Carey expected me to get my bag. It slid into view right behind Aunt Carey and smacked her in the back of the legs, knocking her over.
“Fiana Claremont!” she snapped, getting up.
“Sorry.” I ducked my face away from her disappointment (and obvious annoyance). I grabbed my duffle bag with my hand, pulling it toward me.
“If you would just concentrate,” Aunt Carey said. I nodded my head, and she sighed. I wish my abilities came more naturally, the way they do with everyone else in my family. It seemed so unfair that I descended from the impressive Claremont lineage—as Grandmother would put it—and I couldn’t do any of it right.
My only worry during this idyllic vacation had been if I had clean swimming suits. Now I had to go back to Cemuc and live under Grandmother’s disapproving and disappointed nose. How was I supposed to do anything right with her expectations? It’s no wonder I can’t make anyone obey my simplest commands or leave a mark when I stun. (Aunt Carey’s arm wasn’t even red where I hit her earlier).
Aunt Carey seemed to read my thoughts, and honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if she actually had. She stepped toward me and embraced me. “This is going to be your best year, Finna. I can feel it.” She smiled. Even though Dad brought me home to Grandmother after my mom died, Aunt Carey’s always been more of a mother to me.
I smiled back, not really believing her. “Okay.”
I didn’t dread school that much. I hated going to my Enchanter training class (who would actually like looking ridiculous in front of everyone day after day?), but the rest of my classes weren’t so bad. It’s my grandparents coming home from their three month culture-tour of the outside world that got me down. They went every three or four years, and I liked those summers best. And Grandfather is easy to live with. It’s Grandmother I could do without.
“You won’t believe the man I met down there.” Dad appeared in the doorway. “He actually agrees with striking down the Permit Law.”
“Astonishing.” Nobody missed the sarcasm in Aunt Carey’s voice. She gave Dad the kind of disapproving look that Grandmother usually has on her face when she’s looking at me. I shuddered.
“Finna has school in the morning,” Aunt Carey said.
Dad looked at her, his expression saying he didn’t understand why she told him that. “I know.”
I stifled a giggle. Dad and his little sister acted a lot like Mads and Ellie sometimes.
“See you in the morning, Finna.” Aunt Carey hugged me, then stood up and looked at my dad. “Remind Shelby to be extra attentive when she cleans tomorrow.”
“Right.” Dad nodded, but I could tell his mind was still on the unfathomable man from the beach who agreed with the idea that people shouldn’t need special permits to transport between the Enchanter realm and the outside world. I imagined Dad arguing with him about how laws like the Permit Law keep our culture under the radar. What’s the point in keeping the Kingdom of Enchanters and the Kingdom of Men a secret out here in the middle of the Pacific if we’re just going to let Enchanters, Fairies and even Men visit the outside without regulation? Too bad that unfortunate guy didn’t know better than to go at it with Dad on the statutes for people ‘commuting’ to the outside world for jobs, school, vacations, and even just shopping trips. I agree with Dad that it’s better for everyone if we keep it regulated.
Aunt Carey raised an eyebrow at Dad, clearly doubting his ability to make sure Grandmother arrived home to a spic and span house. “Goodnight.” She reached for Ellie’s hand to transport, but my cousin snatched it away.
“I can transport myself.” She cocked an eyebrow at her mom.
When they left us on the sidewalk, I knew my summer had really ended.
“Ready?” Dad asked, reaching for my hand. I squeezed his with a feeling of relief. He shared Aunt Carey’s opinion that I simply needed concentration and practice, but he still spoiled me once in a while.
“You want to just stay here?” I stared up at the old fashioned, two-story home we’d spent the last two weeks in.
Dad smiled and snapped his fingers, transporting us to our big house in the oldest neighborhood in Cemuc.