Editor’s Note: This is the sixth chapter of The Lost Prentice, an online serial novel exclusively on the Baltimore Post-Examiner. If you missed the previous chapter, please read it before starting this latest installment. Every week we will be posting a new chapter.
Eight days later, Miles sat in the library desperately trying to catch up on all his homework. He was failing miserably. Every time he tried to focus on one of his equations, his mind would wander to his incredibly marvelous girlfriend, Gwen.
Just the other day, she had wowed him to speechlessness. Miles was just taking some notes from his textbook when there was a knock on his apartment door. He hadn’t been expecting anybody that day, so he was pleasantly surprised when Gwen was standing just outside his door.
She was grinning, holding something behind her back.
“Why are you hiding something from me?” asked Miles.
“I’m not hiding anything.” She pulled out the object in her hand and handed it to him.
It was a flower. A brown stemmed flower with small green petals in the shape of a thin star. In the center of the star, the petals had formed a sort of trumpet of white and pink. He bent down and smelled it. It was heavenly. “What is this?”
“A butterfly orchid.” She wrapped her own hands around the one he was using to hold the flower. “It has a special meaning. You give it to the one person who’s always on your mind. You Mr. Hunter are always on my mind. It only seemed appropriate.”
“Gwen. I am…touched.”
“You like it?”
“How could I not?”
“The flower I mean. Not what it signifies.”
“The flower?” asked Miles, still looking down at it. “Yes. It’s very pretty.”
Gwen ducked behind the wall and pulled out a small terracotta pot. In the pot was one stem with the same green flowers on it. She pushed past him and placed it on his glass coffee table.
Satisfied, she stood straight and placed her fists on her hips. “Finally. Some color in this drab apartment.”
“Drab?” asked Miles, shutting the door.
“It’s a very ugly apartment.”
“What makes you say that?” he demanded, his voice leaping a couple octaves.
“Miles. You have one ugly gray couch, one glass coffee table. You have one entertainment center and one T.V. You have one bed, one dresser and one stupid bowl on that dresser. You have no art on the walls, no pictures on your furniture. There’s no personality or color or anything that has anything to do with you!”
“Yeah huh! There’s a stack of textbooks in the corner of my room!”
“That’s not personality, that’s an obsession.”
“Speaking of obsessions-”
Miles gripped her hips and yanked her towards him and smashed his mouth onto hers. They finished the conversation on the couch and on the floor.
He was too busy remembering the wonderful details, that he didn’t notice one of his own friends slip in the chair beside him.
Charlie observed his friend as his eyes darkened and his arms tensed as if he had a particularly appealing naked woman standing in front of him. Before Miles could embarrass himself, Charlie slapped him on the shoulder.
Miles jumped and felt his bones vibrate from the force. “Jesus, Charlie,” he said, over his hushed laughter. “You scared the hell out of me.”
“So it would seem. Who’s got your thoughts in a tangle?” asked Charlie, dropping his voice to a whisper when fellow students shot them a dirty look.
“Haven’t you heard? I have a girlfriend who occupies all my thoughts,” Miles said, smiling dreamily.
“Yes. I heard. Stacey called me up very worried.”
“She thought you were rushing into things with this girl. A very strange girl, she put it. She said you needed a man to talk to. And I’m here.”
“Why didn’t she tell me that as she left my apartment? She said she liked her.”
“Liked her is different from wondering if she’s a little strange or wondering if she dances with fairies and elves.”
“Don’t be ridiculous Charlie. She’s not strange. She’s very insightful. And she doesn’t dance with fairies. She dances with the flowers.”
Charlie rolled his eyes. “Will I ever get to meet her?”
“I’m not sure if I’m ever going to bring her around you three again. She’s precious to me. I need her. She’s changed my life.”
“All the more to meet her.”
“No. She’s mine. Besides, tonight I’m taking her to go see my parents.”
“Richard and Patricia?” Charlie asked, both of his brows raising. “I thought your mother would be the last person this mystery girl would get to meet.”
“What would make you say that?”
“Patricia is a very traditional woman who always saw you with a quiet woman.”
“Gwen is a quiet woman.”
“A quiet demure woman who spoke five languages, who was a child prodigy, who’s met the queen and left school to help with the Superstorm Sandy disaster.”
“No girl will be good enough for Mother. But I don’t care. She’ll have to get used to that fact. Gwen is a part of my life. Despite what the feelings are of everybody else.”
“It’s only been a couple of weeks.”
“I don’t care. The moment I saw her, I knew. She’s everything I need.”
Charlie grinned. “Well when you put it that way. I’d like to meet her. Soon.”
“They’re going to hate me,” Gwen said, twisting her fingers. She was sitting in the passenger seat of the car as he drove to his parent’s house.
Miles reached out and kept her hands still. “They’ll love you. They’ll adore you just as much as I adore you.”
Gwen smiled but there was still worry in her eyes. Then she gripped his hand with both of hers. She glanced up at the sky and couldn’t help but noticed the cloudy forecast. It was intimidating weather; the black and purple clouds were not typical for late March weather. There was no warning of a storm either in the weather reports. The air was thick with humidity. And with Gwen’s apprehension. She couldn’t help but wonder if it was some sort of sign.
“You look pretty today,” Miles said, trying to distract her.
She was in a floor length white beach dress. A million necklaces of small jade stones fell in a dozen lengths. She had one choker around her neck tied with tiger’s eye and a giant turquoise pendant. On her feet were woven gladiator sandals. She was so beautiful.
“Thanks. My best friend helped me pick it out,” Gwen said.
“A best friend?” asked Miles, pleased. “I had no idea you had a best friend! How come you never spoke about her before?”
“Because she’s not a she. She’s a he. His name is Owen. And he’s not like other people. He’s very…unique. There’s nobody like him.”
“No wonder you two are best friends.” He approved of her easy laughter. She was finally relaxing. “What makes him so unique?”
“Well, he and his twin sister live with us. They’re a couple years older than Evie. Twenty four. We’ve been best friends since as early as I can remember. You can say our relationship is a hereditary friendship.”
“Why do they live with you?”
“It’s a large house.”
“Will I get to meet him?”
“Maybe. Depends on how he feels about it.”
Even though it irritated him, he let it go. He was growing a little tired with her being so closed off to him. But he considered that they had only known each other for a couple of weeks. She was allowed to take her time. He just wasn’t sure how much time.
Finally after what seemed like ages, they pulled off in front of his parent’s house. Gwen’s heart hammered as she waited for Miles, once he parked, to open the car door for her. He wrapped his arm around her waist and led her up the stone white steps of the white Colonial styled house. He rang the doorbell and waited.
His parents opened the door and were utterly shocked with the picture standing before them. Miles, their no nonsense science geek, had his arms around a wistful looking hippie. That was the only word to describe her. She was standing with Miles in a long white dress, dozen of green necklaces and blue flowers braided into her hair and around her wrists.
“Mom. Dad. Meet Gwen Keridwen,” Miles said beaming.
“Miles,” said his mother, with the same red coloring to her hair as her son. Her healthy hair was loose and curled to her shoulders. She was very tall, like Miles, but thin as a rail. She wore a blue skirt suit and looked dangerous as well as authoritative.“You didn’t tell us we should be expecting guests.”
“I know but I wanted it to be a surprise. You see, Gwen is my girlfriend.”
“Girlfriend!” boomed his father. “A lovely one at that.”
His father was just as tall as his wife and had the body of a very capable assassin. He was lean with intimidating muscles covering his entire body. His hair was gray and disorderly. He had on khaki pleated slacks and a white button up shirt. His red tie was uneven—the thin part of the tie sticking out under the front of it. Gwen instantly felt her heart grow warm.
Miles’ father had light brown eyes which were gleaming with excitement. His mother, penetrating black ones. Gwen was confident she could charm her way into Mr. Hunter’s heart. But Mrs. Hunter frightened her to her bones.
“Well come on in,” gestured Mr. Hunter grandly.
Miles led Gwen into the house and into the living room. Now she understood where Miles inherited his drab decorating skills. The house was white with the occasional splashes of blue, green or black. It was just so empty. There was only the necessities in the room. A couple of blue couches. A dark wood coffee table. A green carpet. A dark wood entertainment center and a giant plasma flat screen. There were little pictures of the family, the majority of them resting on the white mantle of the white fireplace. Gwen had to do her hardest not to cringe at the lack of color.
Miles sat her down on one blue couch and his parents took the opposite across from them. Gwen glanced out the window and saw the side yard with patches of daisies growing from the grass. She couldn’t help but smile.
“I believe it’s snowing butterflies,” Gwen said, chuckling in Miles’ ear.
“What was that?” asked Mr. Hunter, grinning like a fool.
Gwen was accustomed to Miles being used to her random outbursts. But that wasn’t the case for his parents. She would have to actually explain herself.
She flushed brightly and cleared her throat. “The poet Victor Hugo wrote the phrase ‘It’s snowing butterflies.’ He was writing about the daisies and the magic he felt they had. You’re grass has little daisies growing in them and it reminded me of that line.”
Mrs. Hunter sniffed. “Are you saying my garden is infested with weeds?” she said, her stone stiff and disapproving.
“Of course not. Daisies are widely beloved because they herald the arrival of spring time. They’re full of so much charm and innocence. In fact, the French name is pâquerette, from Pâques which means Easter. They make a fantastic English Daisy Wine which should always be served with chocolate to gain the full effect of it.”
Mrs. Hunter watched Gwen with her jaw slightly dropped in bored disbelief. Gwen quickly cast her gaze to the floor, began twisting her fingers, and continued to blush with embarrassment.
“She’s a gardener and a chef,” Miles explained easily.
Mr. Hunter laughed loudly. “Well of course. Sounds like she knows her stuff.”
“She does. She knows very much about those fields,” he said, throwing his glowering mother a dirty look.
“Are you going to school?” asked Mr. Hunter. He leaned forward and braced his forearms on his thighs. He was looked eager to get to know her.
Gwen smiled, regaining some of her confidence. “Not until the fall semester. I’ll be studying culinary at Stanford. I’m looking very forward to it.”
“That’s wonderful! My wife and I both graduated from Stanford. She’s a criminalist for the Stanford PD Forensics. She’s working with Miles’ best friend Charlie, in fact. I’m actually a doctor for the local hospital. Pediatrician.”
He loved children and Gwen fell a little more in love with him. “What respectful fields.”
A Hispanic woman walked out of the kitchen. She had to be in her sixties but was as large and round as a giant boulder. She was wearing a periwinkle dress with a white apron. “Dinner is served,” she said with a heavy Spanish accent.
Gwen raised her brows in surprise. They had help. Miles smiled and kissed the center of her forehead. Then the four of them moved to the dining room. It was just as cold and empty as the rest of the house.
“So Gwen,” asked Mr. Hunter, already digging into his steak. “Any family to speak of?”
“I have two sisters. I’m the youngest. We all live in Stanford at the same town house.”
“You’re parents bought you three a town house?”
“No. Our parents left us the town house. Well they left my older sister Zelda the town house. They left it to her in case anything happened to them.”
“My word! What happened to them?” Mr. Hunter asked, watching Gwen with wide eyes as if she was sharing a riveting story of twists and turns.
“Ah, car accident,” she said slowly.
“Who raised you? Zelda?”
“Well it only happened just a few years ago. Four actually. Our parents’ coworker slash boss was our guardian till Zelda was able to take us in. She’s a very famous advice columnist.”
“Your parent’s boss? Just what did your parents do?”
“I guess you can say politics and law enforcement.”
“Congress? The PD? FBI?”
Gwen only smiled. Miles recognized it as her I’m-not-going-to-tell-you-because-it-would-break-the-rules-smile. “Something like that.”
Mr. Hunter was oblivious. “CIA. I bet my life on it.”
She laughed. “That’s not necessary.”
Gwen and Mr. Hunter got along amazingly. Miles even swore she was flirting with him with the way she batted her eyes and tossed her head back in laughter. But every now and then, she would squeeze Miles’ thigh or give him a particularly distracting stroke underneath the table.
Mrs. Hunter, however, had her nostrils flared and her lips pursed the entire time. She was making no efforts to speak to Gwen which infuriated Miles to no extent. His anger just about bubbled over when she scoffed loudly and rolled her eyes at a comment Gwen had made.
“Mom.” Miles stood up suddenly. “A word in the kitchen please.”
Mrs. Hunter stood up briskly and followed him into the also cold kitchen.
He wasted no time. “Mom. What the hell?”
“What are you doing Miles? Who is she?” hissed Mrs. Hunter.
“Her name is Gwen and she happens to mean a lot to me. What’s the problem? I thought you wanted me to bring a girl home. What happened to the easy going mother I knew?”
“I wanted you to bring a girlfriend home. Not a girl you picked up off the street!”
“Mother,” warned Miles in a snarl.
“I’m sorry! But what can you expect of me? We raised you to be a man of order and science and sense! And you’re dating a girl who talks about flowers like has conversations with them and they talk back! What’s next? Her best friend’s a fairy?!”
“Mother! That’s ridiculous! She’s just down to earth! In tune to it to a point like no other! There’s nobody like her!”
“Gee. I wonder why?”
Miles continued to glare at his mother with disbelief. No amount of arguing was going to budge her opinion of Gwen. He threw his hands up into the air. “I’m not doing this with you,” he said.
He walked out of the kitchen to Gwen and his father’s loud laughter.
Gwen didn’t even turn around to see him come in. She didn’t even see him standing behind her chair. “Miles, you’re upset,” she said. “What happened? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” She reached for him and he kissed the inside of her wrist as he sat back down beside her.
“You think I’m strange,” Gwen said, as Mrs. Hunter sat back down as well. His mother dropped her fork and the room silenced. “I can easily understand. I have certain qualities that would certainly be deemed abnormal. But Miles likes me. There are no smoke or mirrors. You think I tricked him but it was he who insisted we explore our connection.”
“Lies,” said Mrs. Hunter.
“I would never lie about that. There’s more to me than you think.”
“All I see is a girl who dances with flowers.”
“I also cook with them,” snapped Gwen.
“How dare you, you.”
“Enough!” shouted Miles. “That’s it! We’re out of here!”
Mr. Hunter bolted up from his seat looking confused. He followed Miles as he dragged Gwen through the house. “But son! You just got here!”
“You can thank your wife.” Miles dashed out the front door and slammed it. He took Gwen into his arms and held her as tightly as he could. “Gwen. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s alright. I told you they wouldn’t like me.”
“Which seems impossible but-”
“They’re not you.”
Miles pulled away slightly to look into her golden eyes. Her own were slightly confused at her own statement. “What do you mean?”
“I mean they’re not you. They don’t feel like you. They don’t act like you. They don’t even think like you. Which will help me sleep tonight. I must admit, I don’t think I could handle it if I could sense you in them and they didn’t like me.”
She lied. Gwen lied and she hated herself for it. They didn’t feel like his parents but they were still the people who raised him to be the man he was today. And yet they didn’t like her. It hurt more than either of them could imagine. And worse off, her family wanted nothing to do with Miles. Both of them were hurting their family and Gwen kept withholding the truth from Miles. Which was the same as lying.
Both of them were silent on the drive back to his apartment. She had convinced herself to and not to tell him what she was at least a dozen times. But she had finally bucked up enough to decide she was going to tell him everything about herself. It was only fair. She knew every little thing about him. He deserved to know every little thing about her.
“Miles, I have something to tell you,” Gwen said once he parked in his own spot.
“Sure. What is it?” he asked, pleased that she was speaking to him.
Gwen felt her eyes swim with tears. Her lips were trembling with fear.
Miles noticed the moment it happened. “What? What is it?”
“You’re going to think I’m insane. You’re never going to wish to speak to me again. I don’t want to lose you.”
Miles tried to reach out for her hands but she pulled them away and shook her head. She began to twist her fingers as she looked down at her knees.
“Miles. I’m not an ordinary girl.”
“I’ve figured that much out. I like unique,” he said, grinning. But she wasn’t grinning back.
“I mean I’m not a Normal Miles. I’m an Enchantress. A soldier for the group of magical people called the Subtles. I’m a girl with magical powers. My sisters and I can cast spells to perform subtle magic. I’m also clairvoyant. Do you understand? Do you understand what I’m saying? That I’m magic?”
Miles’ jaw dropped and looked over her shoulder and out the window of his car. It sounded ridiculous. She did sound insane. Magic and psychics didn’t exist. Not in Miles’ world. Was his mother right?
“And my best friend is a fairy,” she added.
His heart tripped. His mother was right.
“Say something,” she said quietly.
Gwen swallowed. “I understand. You deserve a girl who shares your obsession with numbers and science. You deserve a girl who can speak to you in equations, formulas, and theories. All I can give you are flowers and spells. You deserve to live a normal life without the hippie you picked up off the street.”
With a sob stuck in her throat, she threw the car door open and dashed out. She sprinted down the streets and kept running till she couldn’t run anymore. Then she found a bus stop and took it back home. As Gwen walked through her own red door, she was met by her parents’ boss.
“Orpheus?” asked Gwen, her blood draining from her already pale face. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to bring you some grave news.” Orpheus was in a tailored white suit which fit his thin body well. Gwen had a moment to admire his incredible height, his strong face, his brown eyes which never missed anything, and his dark hair which was graying from stress and wisdom. “Come to the living room with your family.”
He took her to the living room with a hand on her back. Gwen sat between Owen and Evie. All of them were on the couch besides Zelda, who was perched on the arm of the red couch.
“Ivor’s been spotted,” Orpheus said plainly.
“What?” demanded Zelda, standing up with fists at her side. “Where?”
“Someplace off the north of California. He’s killing off Subtles and the Fae one by one. And there are rumblings that he’s trying to get the Pix to align with the Vulgars and the Sprye. That will never happen because if anything, the Pix will align with us first. And you know there’s been an alarmingly high rate of Vulgars being born. The Vulgar Boom, some of the Subtles are calling it. I can’t stay long but I had to come to tell you that he’s going to be looking for you. There’s no way he’s going to ignore the children of Rosalba and Gavin Keridwen or the twin children of Elden of the Dryads. “
“Do you think he could find us?” asked Evie, sitting next to Odette—the dove winged twin of Owen.
“We have charms all over the house though,” Zelda said. “Carved spells into the walls and frame.”
“I understand. But I couldn’t say. It would just be in your best interest however if you double up on the charms and spells and the protection. I must go. I have a meeting with Fae Parliament.”
“Thank you for taking the time to warn us,” Zelda said, as they all stood up to follow Orpheus out of the house.
“May we all make it out of this war alive. I’m sure you can all sense one coming.”
They nodded and watched him walk out on them once more.
It was dark and pouring, reminding Gwen just how depressed she was.