Death of Underwood

“Grandma? I thought you weren’t going to come down for his birthday.” Alexandra Underwood placed her school books down tentatively on the table. Grandma Jean’s generous curves were always dressed in pale pastels and heavily sprinkled with jewelry. There was once a time that Alex had thought her grandmother was the living embodiment of a cupcake.

“Sit down, Alexandra.” Jean’s rings tinkled softly as she patted the table next to her. Her tone wasn’t especially grave, nor were her words overly alarming, but Alexandra recognised those pinched eyes and thinned lips.

No, not today. This day is cursed enough without more bad news. She sat heavily in the decorative chair in the beautiful dining room her mother had decorated with fanciful china, lace curtains, and a delicate curlicue border.

“Is it dad?” Alex swallowed against the cotton lining her throat.

For him to die exactly a year after his accident… surely even Karma isn’t that much of a bitch.

“No, he’s fine. Well… his condition is unchanged, anyway.” Jean’s lips thinned even further as she lowered her eyes.

“I know you’ve written him off for dead, but you hear about it in the news all the time, right? ‘Daughter woke up after five years in a coma.’ So why not my father?”

“It makes the news for a reason, Alexandra.”

“Why do you always do that? Why can’t you ever be encouraging?”

The older woman turned the shell bracelet on her wrist twice before meeting Alex’s eyes again. “We can continue this discussion later.”

“Great. Same time next year then?”

“I imagine we’ll be discussing it much sooner than that. Alexandra…” Grandma Jean’s hand trembled a little as she covered Alex’s and for the first time she noticed a puffy redness around Grandma Jean’s eyes. “Your mother passed away.”

“What?” Alex knew she couldn’t have heard her correctly.

“They found her this morning.” Jean squeezed her hand.

“No. They started her on new meds. She just went to the lake to recover. I just talked to her. She was happy!” Alex pulled out her phone and showed her the call log.

Rather than fight her with words, Jean gave Alex a gentle empathic push. Just enough that Alex could taste the shattering truth in her words.

Alex clenched her teeth and looked up at the ceiling. The ceiling so lovingly decorated with the delicate hand of an artist. It was all a lie though, that’s not who her mother had been at the end. In the end she had been a shell of a woman repelling people with her repugnant aura.

“Alex?” Jean asked softly with just the slightest tremble in her voice.

That stupid border was the embodiment of the lie that her mother had told the world. The lie of a woman who created a world of beauty.

The china began to rattle behind her as Alex’s anger rose. The lie of a woman who loved her family. You abandoned dad! You abandoned me!

The crashing of the plates behind her barely made her flinch as her eyes bore into that stupid design. She wished she could pull of each and every molecule of that painted vine from the wall.

“Alex, you need to stop.”

“Stop? Like my mother stopped?” She shook with anger as her vision blurred. Plates crashed around the room as she envisioned the molecules of the paint crashing into each other in a chaos that mimicked her emotions.

Paint that she graced the walls with before turning her back on it all.

When she opened her eyes, she found a wisp of smoke rose as if to make the pattern three dimensional. Yes, burn! Burn it away!

“Alex stop!” Her grandmother ordered shortly before a wave of power pushed into her. Her family was known for the strength of their telekinesis and age had not weakened Jean. The plates crashed to the floor when Alex’s concentration was broken.

Jean stared at the charred pain on the wall. “Lord and Lady, you’re a fire starter.”

“You attacked me.” Shocked indignation coloured her words. Guardians weren’t supposed to attack other Guardians.

“I contained you.” Jean’s earring clinked as she shook her head.

The shock wore off too quickly though, and Alex was returned to the reason for her outburst. “How could she?”

“I don’t think she could face another year alone.”

“She wasn’t alone. I’m here.” Alex’s words were barely a whisper in the aftermath of so much spent psychic energy.

“There are no answers in this realm. She took them to the grave with her. Perhaps you should meditate on your question.”

Jean’s solution was always meditation… or dancing naked in the woods. She liked to disguise herself as one of those new age Wiccans, but the truth was more complex than that. Magic had flowed through their family’s veins for eons.

These days, however, science had given magic a new name: extra sensory perception. Their kind had taken on different roles throughout time. Once they had been hunters of the supernatural beasts that called themselves Architects of Lore, but now they were protectors. Rather than “witches” that were hunted nearly to extinction, they were called “Guardian” and were wooed with gifts and money to serve the same Clans that had once sought their destruction.

“I have agreed to be your legal guardian. You’ll be living with me now.”

“What? But I can’t leave…”

“Alex. This is not open to discussion. You need to be among your own kind. I thought your parents’ choice to move out here was foolish, and look at what’s happened.” Jean’s words stung in the wake of her mother’s death.

Too spent to argue, Alex sat back down and looked at the dining room. Now it looks like a room that belonged to my mother. Deep scars had been cut into the walls and debris was strewn around as if a small tornado had broken out.

“The past can’t be changed, Alexandra. This home is your past now. Let’s go.” Jean took Alex’s hand and gently tugged her with a nudge of telekinesis.

Alex cast a backward glance at the room. Damn you!

Anita C. Young is a Medical Laboratory Scientist who spends her free time thinking of ways to explain the supernatural and unexplained through science. Her latest book is the second book in the Kayara Ingham trilogy The Will of Tyr. She loves to occupy her free time with reading, writing, drawing, and spending time with her animals (two cats and two dogs).


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