I went to sleep that night wishing that the night would go by quickly. It dragged on for as long as possible, of course. I shut my eyes and suddenly I saw myself passed out cold on the ground in what I knew to be the graveyard. Seeing myself looking so... well, dead, I felt tingly with fear.
Then I saw Petunia's face, desperate and pale. She looked older than last time I saw her.
"You have to choose right!" she cried, her voice full of fear. For me? "Don't trust him, don't trust the man with-"
Abruptly, I found myself in my bed. Thankful it had just been a dream, I got out of bed and tried to recover. My stomach felt awful and I wanted to go right back to bed, but I reminded myself that Justin was counting on me.
I'm sorry, began the Guardian, but I can't help you now. My vision is clouded. The time has come for you to decide.
I knew that I wouldn't hear from the Guardian for awhile, and I felt surprisingly alone.
I got dressed in the new outfit I had bought just for this day. Somehow, I wanted Justin to see me looking my best when I helped him.
But instead of calling him and telling him to bring Wei and meet me for the healing, I found myself walking to the graveyard. It wasn't far from my house, and before long I was there, staring at the strangely beautiful scenery.
Why was I even at the graveyard? I didn't know, but I was struck with the sudden realization that despite my dream, nothing about the actual place was scary. I stared at a small pond and felt as if the whole place was perfect: water, trees, flowers, stone... it was like a paradise for the dead.
I walked over to one especially ornate grave and wondered whose it was. Did the grave's owner die too young, like my father? Did he or she die at an old age, content with a well lived life? Could I have kept this person alive with my powers?
I pictured every grave as a person, healthy, alive. All because of me. Could I do that? Was that my true calling, to end death altogether? What if no one ever had to die?
But what would happen to the graveyard without death? Yes, the place was full of sadness, sadness so thick that I could practically feel it brushing against my skin like dust. But it was also a place of beauty and rest. And what would life be like without sadness anyway? It was only sadness that made happiness so amazing.
Happiness. Something I hadn't experienced in a while, I realized. Except when I was with Justin. Who I needed to help. The thought made me just a bit resentful, until I shoved away the ugly emotion; I could rest and have a good time after I'd healed Wei.
I walked out of the graveyard, promising to visit again. Maybe if I came back at night I could even talk to a ghost. My book had said that all witches and some open-minded people had the power to communicate with the dead.
I decided that the best place to perform the healing was by the water. My book had said that being near a water source could often amplify the healing and make it more effective. Twinbrook was already a good place to practice magic because of its coastal location.
I took in the fresh sea air and smiled. I was ready to try out my powers!
I called Justin, and he answered on the first ring.
"Meet me at the South side beach," I said, cheery. "I'm ready."
"Thank you so much, Blue!" Justin exclaimed. "You're a lifesaver!"
Justin sounded a little on edge, as if he had been up for hours waiting for me to call. I felt awful for waiting to call him.
I waited for Justin and Wei in front of the water. The water was lovely, very serene. I tried to match my own mindset to the water's gentle temper. But vague fears kept popping up. What if I wasn't ready? What if something went wrong? What if I was supposed to do something else?
I was still lost in thought when Justin arrived. I could barely hear him as he came up behind me.
"Blue," he said, his voice raw.
I ran forward to meet him and pulled him into a passionate kiss, needing to pretend for just a minute that the two of us were all that existed. I was so scared, and so confused. I needed reassurance that after today Justin and I could just be together- no more magic, no more complications- just us.
"Justin," I whispered, our faces still close. "I love you."
It was the first time I had ever said it to him. The first time I'd ever said it, truthfully. But I saw no point in denying how I felt, not when so much else was uncertain.
I saw a strange emotion flash across his face, but it was gone so fast that it could have been nothing more than my imagination.
"I love you too," he said. "You're the best thing that's ever happened to me."
That was all I needed to hear. I was ready. I looked over at Wei, standing farther away from the water. He had definitely degenerated since the first time I saw him.
"My crown!" he shouted, clearly panicked. "Where is my crown?!"
I smiled. Soon he would be blushing at how crazy he had been.
"Okay," I said to Justin. "Might as well do it now. Step away a little, please, I need some space to gather the power."
"Blue, you're amazing!" Justin cried. "You don't know how much this means to me!"
I concentrated hard on what I knew I could do. I imagined the healing wave sweeping over Wei's brain, fixing brain cells wherever it went. As I pictured the wave, I could feel my power growing and growing inside my mind, a beautiful, glowing wave of pure power.
I must have looked insane to Justin. I could feel my eyes rolling around my eye sockets as the power consumed more and more of me.
Suddenly, the power became unbearably addictive. I needed to pull more, needed to have more. It felt incredible, like I was finally whole. I reached out my arms to concentrate on obtaining more, and I grew angry when I realized that I would be more powerful yet if Mother hadn't stolen from me. I was filled with hatred for her, and I wondered if Wei could wait, it might be a better idea to use my power to destroy her...
My hands fell down as I triumphed at the idea of killing Mother. My power could seek her out and end her life in a second flat. Then I could steal my power back, and it would expand, and I would be unstoppable. No one would steal from me again. I would kill them if they tried. And if I needed more... well, I would find untrained witches to take from. Not like they needed it anyway.
I gathered the power for one last burst. If I took everything I had I would have enough to eliminate her forever. I pictured the wave of power growing bigger, bigger, bigger...
..And then I stopped. I let the power die down again, shaking. I was on the verge of overstretching myself, and for what? To kill my mother? Surely that was out of my ability range, and even if it wasn't, it was out of my moral range. I may have hated her, but I could not kill her purposefully. That would be sinking to her level.
I grew angry again, this time at myself. I use more power than I'm used to and suddenly I let it take me over? I'd thought I was stronger than that! If I couldn't be trusted to use my power selflessly, then I couldn't use it all. I panicked at the thought of what I could have done, what I might have become. For the first time, I was incredibly scared of myself.
I couldn't use it at all. Then all of this had been for nothing. All the training, the practice, the fights with Goodwin... it had all been a waste of my time. And I had to break the news to the man I loved.
"What's wrong?" yelled Justin, running and coming to a stop right in front of me. He must have noticed when I started gesturing at myself angrily.
"I can't do it," I said softly. "I'm too weak to heal Wei. I thought I could do it, but the power is just too much for me to control. I would have to train for years in order for this to be safe, and I don't know if I can commit to that. I'm not sure I want this power at all. It makes me feel... not like myself, like someone mean and cruel and power-hungry. You understand, right?"
I begged him with my eyes to forgive me. I just wanted him to say that he still loved me, that he loved me for more than just the magic. Our relationship had been so mixed with the magic and the expectations that I didn't know what we would be without it.
Justin didn't seem to understand what I said.
"But you'll still do it for me. Because you love me. You said you love me, Blue, and if you really do you'll heal Wei. I know you will!"
"I love you," I said again. "But I can't. I can't risk losing sight of who I am. I would do anything for you, anything else. I would heal Wei if he had a cold. But the power it takes to fix him now is too much."
I thought back to the graveyard. All the people I could have saved... at a price, and if in the process I didn't forget about anything but my own power.
"And you know what else? This isn't fair. Healing Wei when other people out there are dying, and no one's saving them. Maybe it's better to use a little of my healing powers on a lot of people, rather than spending all of it on one. I'm sorry, I should never have agreed."
"You promised!" he screamed. "You can't just back down from it like that! Do it right now, or you'll never see me again!"
It was like all of my worst nightmares, all the doubts that kept me up at night, piled into just a few sentences. All I could do was stare at Justin in horror as he confirmed my fears.
I looked down, unbearably sad.
"I can't do it. And I wish you found it in your heart to understand my position, but I see that you can't. I hope you find a way to make Wei better."
I looked up and saw Justin staring at nothing in particular with blatant fear on his face.
"I'm going to die," he said quietly. "That's why I won't see you again."
Shocked, I considered his words. He wasn't sick. Why would he die?
Justin leaned close to me, for the last time, and whispered, "You made the right choice. You're the one that deserves to live."
Then he walked away. I pretended that I didn't care, that I didn't want more than anything to beg for him to come back. Instead, I looked away until I knew he was gone.
I was too emotionally distraught to even think about his words much. All I wanted was to be home, in my bed, where I could cry in peace.
I'm proud of you, my Guardian said. I was surprisingly happy to hear the voice in my head again. It was comforting to know someone was on my side. You made the right decision. Even if you tried to heal Wei, it would have killed you. I can see that now. You're very lucky to be alive.
I called the taxi and got in mechanically. I wasn't sure what was keeping me alive for the moment, because nothing had meaning. All I could see was Justin shouting accusations at me.
I stepped outside in front of my house. Then I gasped, my eyes tearing up.
It couldn't be empty. It couldn't. This was where I lived, where my shack had always been. How could there be nothing? Where had it all gone? Had I given the driver the wrong directions?
This was your mother's doing, my Guardian said. This was her only chance. She was angry you bypassed her curse, that you didn't fall for her trick. She'll never be able to do this again, and she couldn't have if you were home. The curse does not allow her to directly harm you or your descendants. It's all about playing to your weaknesses- in your case your love of helping others. She knows she lost, so she lashed out like a child throwing a tantrum. I'm sorry.
I was devastated, furious, and emotionally exhausted. I was effectively homeless. I hated Mother more than ever, but I knew that I could never kill her. If I used my power to destroy her, I would eventually become her. No, I had to beat her by continuing to live, by teaching my kids and their kids and theirs how to be good. That was the only way I could finish her off: through the kindness that was so foreign to her.
This time, I walked. His house was a long walk, but it was close enough. His front door was still familiar from all the times I had visited. It was more comforting than I had expected.
I knocked and waited for him to answer the door. I hoped he was home. I hoped he would let me in. Because I finally understood how right he had been, and right now he was all I had left. Please, Goodwin, I begged silently. I need you badly.