26 of March, 2021 – Class E-2
Her flaxen blonde hair was pulled back in a low ponytail. She stood, entirely corporeal, before the potted rooftop garden. Her eyes, though despondent, flew over our group, as if the ghost girl were staring past us.
The very sight of her made my chest ache.
“Buenas noches, and welcome to your first Botany lesson,” greeted Professor Dacal. Her accent was distinctly Spaniard, reminding me of home. “I am of the De Lay Coven, which is only carried on in death. I am a healer, an herbalist, a practitioner of magick, and for the remainder of the year I will be your instructor.”
Then she gestured behind her to Blodwen. “This is Blodwen, a fourth-year student who is dedicating her free hour to assisting me. She will come around with the specimens I introduce, displaying them to your group as I speak. I ask that you do not touch any of today’s specimens with your bare skin. Beginning next week, we shall work with gloves and boots for all of you.”
Lilly, Helena and I exchanged swift glances before spinning around on our cushions to give the professor and her assistant our full attention. Those closest to us turned as well, and those toward the rear sat up straight–except for Alexa, who could easily see over all of us.
The professor’s eyebrows rose. “Few words, swift action, and attentiveness; these traits will do well for our class, so I would say that you are all off to a wonderful start.”
She made a gesture to Blodwen, who immediately became incorporeal and disappeared into the lush greenery behind her. The ghost girl emerged just a moment later on foot with a clay pot in her hands. The pot was filled with moist dirt, and protruding from the dirt stood a gorgeous blue flower with spiky leaves and a thorny stem. A tiny cluster of stamens was sticking out from between the petals, surrounding a short pistil.
“This is Lilium sapphirus, better known as the Sapphire Bloom lily,” announced Professor Dacal. She paused briefly as Blodwen closed the distance between her and the class, holding out the potted plant as she walked slowly around the lecture area, beginning with Lilly and working her way counter-clockwise. “Does anyone here know about this flower?”
The professor’s head dipped slightly to one side as she regarded a student toward the rear. “Mr. Calixto?”
“It’s a once rare flower that now only grows in captivity,” explained Edgar. “It’s also called, ‘flor de cem usos,’ or flower of one hundred uses, because most potions and spells ask for some part of it.”
Professor Dacal smiled deeply. “I expect nothing less from a member of the Serafim Coven. You will flourish here, Mr. Calixto. Yes, the Sapphire Bloom lily is one of few flowers where every part of it is essential. The petals are said to be an aphrodisiac, used in love potions and rituals. The leaves are poisonous if eaten raw, but if boiled at sixty-six degrees they can be used in healing potions and salves. The stems, however, are where there is the most flavor; they can be dried and ground into sehionis. Can anyone tell the class what sehionis is?”
I caught Elyse raising her hand out of the corner of my eye. “Ms. Hawkins?”
“Sehionis is an herb used in culinary magick,” she revealed. “It’s savory with a hint of sweet and can be added to most ritualistic meals. Everyone who’s eaten it reports having improved mood and decision-making skills within minutes.”
The professor cocked an eyebrow, impressed. “Outstanding! I assume you also practice culinary magick?”
Elyse lowered her eyes and responded with a single stiff nod.
“Be not ashamed, preciosa. Culinary magick is not seen too often anymore. Revel in your uniqueness.”
When Blodwen finally reached me, I was hugging myself to keep from shivering from the anticipation. I felt uncomfortably warm, even though there was no weather in the dark dimension, and I studied the appearance of the flower only briefly before I glimpsed up at the ghost girl’s face.
She met my gaze dead-on and whispered, “Hullo again.”
Even though I couldn’t see my own face, I knew I had to be blushing furiously. She remembers me! “H-Hi.”
Then she straightened, spun around, and returned to the garden, and we didn’t share another word for the rest of the class. Professor Dacal had her show us more plants–the sastria spore sprouts, the silk spice, the violet dogbane, the tassel pudina, the perennial water wineberry, the clumpfoot bittercress, the dame’s wake robin, the small-flowered shadbush, and the Spanish inkberry–all poisonous to some extent, all essential for potions, antidotes, salves, and spellwork. The professor concluded our class when the bell rang for Middy.
“Enjoy your meal and blessed be, my pupils,” she sang as she became corporeal and disappeared into her garden. We sprang to our feet and hurried to our cubbies to retrieve our footwear and backpacks. I had my boots nearly tied when I noticed that Blodwen was standing by the messy desk at the corner of the roof. She was kicking off her gardening boots and slipping on her chunky-heeled Mary Janes.
Now’s my chance! I clutched the straps of my backpack and approached her, my heart racing. She glanced up just as I was a meter away, and she shot me a sweet smile.
“Cari de Ardo, right?” she acknowledged.
I fought the urge to gasp and squeal. Holy shit, she knows who I am! “Yeah, and you’re Blodwen. Good seeing you again.”
“Likewise,” she nodded. “I hope you haven’t been staying too late past the last bell.”
My heart was pounding in my ears. She remembers what happened. “I haven’t. My brother drags me through before the time limit.”
Blodwen’s smile deepened. “That’s good. I’m glad you have someone taking care of you.”
There was a tinge of somber in her sincere tone. I cleared my throat. “Uh, you know, I know we don’t know each other much at all, but I’ve been told I’m a great listener–i-if you, uh, need to talk about stuff.”
It was about then that I noticed that Lilly and Helena were loitering by the exit, whispering amongst themselves as they watched Blodwen and me. My face became flushed with warmth. How long have they been there?!
Blodwen picked up a binder, a notebook, and a journal that were stacked to one side of the desk before becoming incorporeal. She retained her melancholy smile as she descended slowly, disappearing through the floor.
“Thank you. And if you need someone to lend you an ear or a shoulder, you can find me in the secret garden.”
Then she was gone, and I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest.
“What the hell was that all about?” Lilly called out. She and Helena wore knowing smiles on their faces.
As I joined my friends, I debated not telling them about my experience with Blodwen the prior Monday. Why wouldn’t I? I reasoned through my doubt. They’ve been my friends for as long as I can remember. They can keep secrets.
So I told my friends everything as we made our way to the courtyard. I told them about how I left my backpack in the locker room, and how Axel and Val left me to retrieve it; how I stayed behind later than I should have, and my odd after-hours interaction with Blodwen; and how I found her in Axel’s yearbook, and he explained flashbacks to me.
When I finished my explanation, Lilly sighed.
“Here you go, falling head over heels for another girl.”
I’m certain my face was beet red–we were near the courtyard and there were a few students around, so I shushed her. “Someone will hear you! And what makes you think I’ve fallen for her?”
Lilly scoffed and began counting each point on her digits: “You did research on her, you’ve been looking for her everywhere since you first saw her, you’re worried about her, and your face gets so red when you think about or talk to her. Face it, Car–you’re in love.”
“Poor Tea,” Helena mumbled. She caught herself and threw me an apologetic look. “S-Sorry.”
I buried my face in my hands. “For the millionth time, there’s nothing between me and Tea–and there’s nothing between me and Blodwen, either.”
“Oh yeah?” challenged Lilly. “Then what do you call all the pining you’ve been doing after Blodwen?”
“It’s just curiosity–” I answered reflexively, only to stop myself and mull over my own word choice. Didn’t Aerwyna say something about my curiosity?
“Yeah, sure,” snickered the Naismith heir. “So, what time do you want us at your place?”
“Whenever works,” I shrugged. “Val and Ax will be working, and I think Nanny has a date tomorrow, so we’ll have the house to ourselves at night.”
“Axel’s working?” Helena giggled, just as Lilly gasped. “The whole house to ourselves? Wanna throw a party?”
Helena and I immediately threw scathing glances at our friend. “No!”
“Oh, c’mon!” Lilly pressed. “We’d only invite a few friends–and they’d all come through the portal, so Clarence would never know!”
I sighed and fidgeted. “I don’t know. Who would we even invite?”
“Invite to what?”
All three of us jumped–Helena let out a tiny yip, while Lilly shouted an, “ah, hell!”–and spun around to confront the voice that had startled us. There stood Axel, Sage, and Galiana, all watching us with amused, inquisitive gazes.
That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head. Who better to invite than my guides? “Lilly was suggesting that we throw a small party since Nanny won’t be home tomorrow night. Would you guys want to come?”
Axel’s eyes were wide as my words sunk in. Gal and Sage swapped shocked looks before settling their eyes on my adoptive brother. It was another moment before he recovered; his grin was mischievous, and there was a twinkle in his arctic blue pools that I couldn’t place.
“ ‘Bout time you loosened up, kid. Count me in.”