I am driving down highway I-10, Ariel snoring softly beside me. We are around twenty minutes out from the crescent city, and I can’t help but feel the strange humming sensation in the back of my mind. We are getting closer to the Source. My body is practically vibrating with anticipation. It has been so long since I have been around the Source. I didn’t realize how greatly I have suffered.
Looking out at the dark sky, I can see the glow of the city’s lights in the distance. There have been no run-ins since we decided that New Orleans was our final destination, which is a good sign. Perhaps the hunters can’t feel our power in this area. There are safe spaces for creatures, and I can’t believe it took me this long to find one. I flick the indicator before turning off on the exit to Basin Street. I managed to book us in at the Best Western before we left our last inn. We will be staying there for a couple of days, as I make my final decision. To stay or go.
It takes me ten minutes to navigate the streets and find a parking space. I drag my sister from the car. The power drain has been a lot on her. I can see it in the bags under her eyes, the slump of her shoulders, and her face is paler than I have ever seen. We check-in, gather our things, then plop on our beds. I let out a long sigh as my body relaxes. The air here is different. I don’t know how to explain it, but it makes me feel more alive. Like my powers are slowly being regenerated from the Source. I sit up, rolling my shoulders back before looking at Ariel. She is curled up on her bed, her day clothes and shoes still on. I grab the blanket off my bed and throw it on her before moving to the chair.
We don’t have much left from our last escape, and I know I will have to use the rest of our savings to buy us new things. I groan at the idea of getting a job, but I know it has to be done. Pulling out my laptop, I place it on the desk and start clicking through numerous ads for apartments and jobs.
By the end of it, I have found us a place to stay on Dumaine Street, but I have yet to find myself a job. That doesn’t matter, though. I have at least a month to find one, and it shouldn’t be that hard. There are always places looking to hire.
Letting out a long sigh, I prepare for bed. It takes me only a few minutes before I am lying on the springy mattress. I stare at the ceiling, trying to put my mind to rest, but it is nearly impossible. There is so much for me to do and so many concerns that float in my head. What if we aren’t safe here? Could they already be on to us? How long do we have before we have to run again? I hate this. Every day I wish for a boring human life for my sister and myself. Just a moment of normalcy.
Closing my eyes, I focus on my breathing. Something my mother taught me when I was a boy. When you are overcome with anxiety and worries, you breathe. In for ten, out for ten, repeat. I can still hear her voice in my mind sometimes, telling me everything will be alright. A tear rolls down my cheek as darkness slowly pulls me into sleep.
Running around in my mother’s garden, I laugh to myself before throwing another fireball in the air. It is nice to get outside, away from all the castle, the politics, and people. At age six, I escaped as much as I could. Freedom is something I value highly, and out here, I am free. No one to tell me what to do, and I don’t have to attend the silly classes.
I turn the corner, spinning around before throwing another fireball in the air. My dragon has yet to visit me in my dreams. My mother told me that he should come soon, though my father is disappointed in me. He says, “How is he supposed to rule when he has no dragon? Did I birth a failure?” The words always sting my chest, but Mother says to try not to let it bother me. All I need is her love, anyway.
Suddenly, I toss my fireball a little too high in the sky, and the rosebush catches fire. I shake my hands to extinguish the flames before dancing from foot to foot. The fire continues to spread, and I jump back. Looking around, I see the fountain and a bucket. An idea sparks in my mind, and I rush over as quickly as my little feet can carry me. I grab the bucket, dunking it in the cold water before rushing back. The fire continues to grow, despite the small splash of water. Smoke rises quickly into the air, and the gardeners run over to help.
It is too late. My mother’s roses are ruined. I collapse back onto my bottom, crying into my knees. I imagine the look of disappointment and sadness on my mother’s face when she sees this. My little heart can’t bear the idea. I feel someone move to sit beside me as I continue to cry.
“And what happened here?” my mother’s voice rings in my ears.
I look up at her, ashamed. “I…I…I b-burnt down the g-garden.”
“Oh? How did you do that?” she asks, her voice as soft as honey. My mother doesn’t look mad or upset. She looks at me with concern, and I bury my face into her side.
“I wasn’t w-watching! My fire…it touched the bushes,” I cry.
My mother runs her fingers through my messy dark hair as she hushes me. “Breathe in for ten. Out for ten. Repeat.”
I nod. Closing my eyes as I focus on my breathing. She copies my breathing, speaking no words until she sees the tears on my cheeks drying and my sobs turning into sniffles. My mother lifts my chin to look up into her ocean blue eyes. They swirl with different emotions, but none of it is what I feared.
“You know what happens when things burn?” she whispers.
“What?” I ask her.
“It gives room for new light to grow,” she says, smiling softly. “Together, we will build a new rose garden. Giving life to new plants and remembering the old. How does that sound?”
“It sounds great!” I say, smiling brightly at her. My mother takes my hand, leading me back to the castle. My small little world is as perfect as it can be.