I sat at the table in the library and stared out the large windows at Mother’s flower garden, which was bare of all color except the occasional shade of brown due to the early winter season that had set over New England. As I waited for the arrival of my tutor I contemplated the last couple of weeks and the events I remembered, which were very few. I was unable to determine why I was missing such a large number of memories from my life. Usually I would assume that the memory lapse was a side effect from the drugs I had been prescribed, but I knew that in this instance the medication wasn’t to blame. I had purposefully stopped taking all my medication prior to the missing time. And even if it were the drugs, it wouldn’t explain why my brother Daniel also had no memories of the prior week. There was this memory void for both of us that I could not explain. It felt as if someone had snatched the memories right out of my head and left behind a pit of dread. Should I consider that maybe we were both drugged as Daniel had suggested to me earlier? If it were true, if Daniel and I were drugged so that we would not remember what happened, who did such a thing? And why? Why did that person not want us remembering what had transpired?
Fuck. I hated this. I hated this feeling of helplessness. My mind was a chaotic storm of distressing thoughts and fragmented images of Chloe with white eyes leaning over me, Christian standing beside me gripping my forearm, a funnel of energy swirling above me, Aunt Rachel sitting in the morning parlor staring at me, and the statue of my cousin in my aunt’s studio. Which of these were actual memories and which were just hallucinations or dreams, I was uncertain. My intuition told me that The Ancestors had something to do with the lost time, but I possessed no clear images validating my hypothesis. An undercurrent of fear constantly gurgled within me. I was afraid; afraid for myself, my brother, but mostly for Aunt Rachel. Was it possible that I had blanked out my own memories because the events that unfolded were just too traumatic for me to effectively deal with? It was possible, but why did Daniel also have the same missing time?
I sighed and glanced at the antique carriage clock that Mother had placed on the top shelf of the breakfront bookcase. Mr. Stokes would be arriving shortly for our lessons, perhaps he’d be able to help me sort through the problem. He was proving to be more helpful than I ever imagined a tutor would ever be to me.
The trip to Aunt Rachel’s house revealed no mundane evidence to suggest that my aunt hadn’t gone on a trip to Europe, but Mr. Stokes and I knew otherwise. The Ancestors had finally succeeded in claiming her, and though previously their motivation for wanting her to remain with them was unknown to me, I now understood she was retribution for a serious error she made, a lapse in judgment. She misused her powers and that action was viewed as a betrayal to the vow that she made to the ancient handmaiden of Frigg, she who protected our family during the dark time in Salem. It was the same vow that many of the Williams’ family women took with the intention of repaying the old Williams’ family debt. It was the same vow I made, the vow to be a Valkyrie, a Secret of Syn.
I was upset that Aunt Rachel had been taken from me and I still intended to find a way to bring her home, but I finally understood the reasoning behind the actions of The Ancestors. She had unintentionally tapped into her ability and used her powers on an innocent, someone wrongly accused by my aunt herself. Mr. Stokes had witnessed the discretion, he attempted to interfere, but in the throes of anger she merely swept him aside without any momentary consideration of his warning. It was only after her intention had manifested that the realization of what she had done descended upon her in tandem with the hefty weight of guilt and sorrow. She knew she would be required to pay for her discretion and she hadn’t intended to fight The Ancestors when they came for her and would instead willingly accept her fate. All had been revealed to me when my essence had probed the caverns of Mr. Stokes’ thoughts and memories the day we went to my aunt’s home seeking answers to her disappearance. He had intentionally buried the memory, but I forced it to the surface against his wishes. I wasn’t certain what I was meant to do with the information, but I knew that my missing time was directly connected to Aunt Rachel; I just couldn’t seem to find the link.
I opened the notebook that sat on the table in front of me and flipped through the pages searching for the notes I had taken of the previous week’s lectures that Mr. Stokes had presented. I hoped that reviewing them would trigger something in my brain and allow my lost memories to resurface thus bringing forth some helpful information I might be able to use to explain the missing time and perhaps to use to find a way to appease Syn and negotiate Aunt Rachel’s release from wherever she was, which was not Europe, regardless of what my parents seemed to believe.
I reached the last of pages containing my handwriting and scowled. I flipped through again only this time working backwards. I carefully scanned each page making a mental note of the date I had scribbled at the top. Something just didn’t add up for me. Why wouldn’t I have taken notes on those days? I always took notes even if it were just a paragraph or two. The door to the library slowly opened.
“Hey, Ange,” my brother said, as he shut the door behind him. “Isn’t your tutor late?”
“No, Mr. Stokes is never late. He’ll be here soon,” I responded. “What’s going on with you today?”
My brother shrugged then gestured to the opened notebook. “What’cha working on?”
“I’m not really working on anything. I was just looking for the notes I took last week,” I explained turning my attention back to the pages. “But I can’t find any.”
“Is that weird?” he asked, sitting across from me on the table so that he could lean over and look at the pages as I flipped through again. “Do you always take notes?”
“Seriously?” he raised his eyebrows in disbelief. “Shit! I never take notes. You’re a better student than me. Mom and Dad must be prou -”
I glanced at him before he could finish his thought. We both knew our parents would never be proud of me for being anything, but I appreciated his unfiltered response.
“Honestly I really use the note taking as a way of staying focused on Mr. Stokes’ lectures,” I admitted. “He has this way of speaking that sort of lulls me, encourages me to get lost in my own thoughts, so if I want to learn anything I really have to stay focused.”
“Maybe that’s why you don’t have any notes those days,” my brother suggested as he leaned back. “Maybe you didn’t pay attention and daydreamed instead.”
“The whole week?” I was skeptical. “I don’t know. That really doesn’t sound like something I would have done for every lesson … and I don’t think Mr. Stokes would have permitted that sort of behavior either.”
There was a soft knock on the door as the antique clock chimed the hour. Mr. Stokes opened the door and entered, his leather messenger bag hung from his shoulder, but his usual composed demeanor had been replaced with a subtle tension I knew indicated that his was troubled by something. He pointedly looked at me as he approached the desk.
“Good morning, Angie,” he nodded at me then my brother. “Daniel.”
“Good morning,” we responded in unplanned unison.
I stifled a giggle as I glanced at my brother. It felt good reconnecting with him. I knew I missed him, but I had to admit if only to myself that I had missed our relationship more than even I realized.
Mr. Stokes walked behind the oak desk, but instead of removing his wool coat and unpacking his messenger bag as per his usual routine, he remained standing with his hands casually leaning on his bag.
“At your parents’ suggestion, since your brother,” my tutor gestured towards Daniel, “was expelled from Saint John’s, he will be joining us in our lessons until they make different arrangements.”
This was unexpected, though I wasn’t sure what I was expecting them to do about the situation with him. I hadn’t really considered what their actions would be other than a serious lecture about his lack of discipline. I liked the idea of having him with me during my lessons with Mr. Stokes. It would be a treat to have someone else there. It could be fun. Daniel looked surprised as well though I couldn’t imagine that he expected them to allow him to wander around the house all day with no purpose, no job, or without attending school.
“So with this being our new arrangement, I suggest that the three of us take this opportunity and go on a field trip.”
Oh, now this sounded promising.
“Where?” I asked.
“To see a woman about some dairies,” Mr. Stokes winked.