No one answered the door.
I stared blankly for what felt like an eternity, waiting for it to magically open, until the Guardian remarked gently that it appeared no one was home.
I was about to walk away and figure out my next move. It's not as if I had a viable plan, or any other friends. The bench I'd slept on my first night in town was looking like the best (and only) option for a place to hang out at till work started again.
I turned around, and suddenly Goodwin was standing in front of me. He looked surprised to see me, but all I could do was stare.
Say something! the Guardian hissed oh-so-helpfully. Yeah, like I wasn't trying to do exactly that.
"Hey," I said quietly.
Goodwin stared at me for a long minute, then a terrible expression appeared on his face: a combination of anger, annoyance, and mistrust. And I knew I deserved it for everything I'd put him through when he was only trying to help.
"What are you doing here?" he asked in a voice more hostile than I would have believed him capable of.
I was tired, sad, angry on so many levels that I couldn't take Goodwin hating me. It was the final straw. I fell into his arms, sobbing.
I was amazed when he didn't push me away. Goodwin held me in a tight embrace until I felt calm enough to stop crying.
After the moment had passed, I was incredibly disgusted with myself. I go to make amends with Goodwin, and instead I cry on his shoulder? How pathetic. Why would he want to be friends with me anyway, when I never considered his feelings but made him deal with mine? The thought made me want to cry again.
"I'm sorry," I said, still choked up and confused, exhausted from my attempt to draw on my power. I had too much to say and I didn't know how to express all of it, so the words flew out in a strange mash of emotion. "You were right about everything, and I didn't listen. I was so stupid, Goodwin, forgive me! And I don't have a house anymore, and Justin's gone, and I was wrong about everything. And I'm so, so sorry for coming here such a mess, but I don't know what to do anymore."
I could feel the tears welling up as I waited for him to tell me to go away and never come back again.
"Please," I kept saying. "Please let me make it up to you, please!"
"Stop," Goodwin said. "You don't have to apologize anymore, I understand. Everyone makes mistakes. You're obviously sorry! Come inside, please, and rest. You can take your time and tell me the whole story."
I gaped at him incredulously. Was he serious? I opened my mouth to say sorry again, but then closed it. He'd told me to stop. I walked in with Goodwin and had a strange certainty that everything would be okay.
When Mother sent a servant to inform me that my presence was required in the first floor sitting room, I knew that something was about to happen. I had been waiting anxiously all day to hear news of Blue: I hoped desperately that I wasn't about to learn about her death.
I walked in to find my Mother dressed in her most formal and intimidating gown and looking absolutely furious. She was yelling at the mysterious visitor that I had met recently. The one that was helping Mother kill Blue. I decided that if she was angry at him it might mean Blue was okay.
"You," Mother screamed, pointing at him as though his very presence offended her deeply. "You tried to run away! Did you think you'd get far? I knew the second Bluvia evaded the curse. I should never have trusted an idiot like you with such an important task! You know what has to happen now, don't you?"
"Please," the man begged. "Forgive me! I'll do anything for you, anything! You can have all of my powers, all of my money, anything you want! Please!"
Mother stared at him incredulously. "You think I'd pardon you that easily? I funded your move to Twinbrook. I expended my precious energy finding you a roommate and then causing him to fall ill. I entrusted you with an important task, and you failed miserably. I was perfectly clear when I hired you that the punishment for failure was death." She sighed as though he was utterly idiotic. "I thought it would inspire you to do your best, but I guess not."
Suddenly, Mother looked straight at me. "Sit down, Petunia."
She gestured at the nearest couch. I crept over and sat down cautiously, unsure why I was there at all. Usually Mother wasn't so public with her business. Mother continued to stare at the man with an increasingly dangerous look on her face.
Mother spoke to me, never taking her eyes off of the man.
"I brought you here to see what happens to those who disappoint me," she said. "I offered Mr. Kayes here eternal life if he could do one thing for me: trick your sister into killing herself. But he failed, and now he must suffer the penalty."
My mouth fell open in shock as I realized what I was about to witness.
"Why?" I asked. "Why show me? This isn't my business. I don't need to be here."
I saw a perceptive glint in Mother's eyes. "You would run away if you could," she said. "Do not think I have not seen it. You hate me, and I could care less. But you will stay here. Blue may be beyond my reach now, but you are not. You are entirely mine. There will come the day when I will need you to serve my purposes, and when that day comes you will remember what you see now and you will not let me down. Not unless you want to share in Mr. Kayes' fate, that is."
To my shock, the man that had been identified as Mr. Kayes spoke, his eyes wide with madness and fear.
"You lost," he said, almost gleeful. "Blue is pregnant with my child. Her line will continue. I tried to tell you last time we met, but you didn't care to hear. So I told your daughter instead."
He gazed straight at me. I sat uneasily under his stare, meeting his stare.
"Petunia cares about her sister," he continued. "She won't betray her, when the time comes. You put too much stake in using fear to control others. You don't understand that you can't purchase a soul through threat and intimidation."
Mother went even more ballistic.
"PREGNANT?" she shrieked. "With your child?"
I saw her take a few deep breaths, as though getting the anger under control. The maniacal expression never left her face. It was a humorous scene, but I certainly wasn't about to laugh.
"Then I guess you'll die knowing your child is under a curse. Perhaps he or she will be the one to die. I hope so. Any offspring of yours deserves nothing less."
The sudden slap shocked me. Mother's hand hit Mr. Kayes' cheek so hard that he fell over. Surely her strength had to be fueled by magic? She didn't exercise her arm muscles enough to be so powerful otherwise.
I wanted to turn away when the next slap came, and the next, and the next, but I couldn't. It was like a nightmare. I watched the stranger that must have meant something to my sister die in front of me and hoped that wherever Blue was she had no clue what was happening in Mother's sitting room.
Goodwin's house was so comforting. I hadn't been inside in way too long, but everything was familiar, from the worn yet cushy furniture to the faint smell of laundry permeating the air.
"Thank you," I said softly. "You don't know what it means to me, that you would even listen to me after everything."
"Blue, you're practically falling over," Goodwin said. "Sit down and we can talk."
After we sat down he didn't say anything, but looked at me quizzically. I resolved to tell him the full story.
I began, and once I started talking I had to keep going. I didn't leave anything out. I told him about Mother and needing to leave the kingdom. I talked about the Guardian and learning about the curse placed on me and my descendants. I described my first time meeting Justin, going to his house and seeing Wei's condition, studying magic and crushing all doubts I might've had. I told him about the moment when I realized that I couldn't draw on that much of my power without losing sight of myself. I described the awfulness of Justin's abandonment, followed by the realization that I was homeless.
I even faithfully recounted just how close I had gotten to Justin, though it was awkward to say some of it out loud. I figured Goodwin deserved to know everything.
Once I finished, I stared ahead sadly. Telling the whole story had just made me seem even more stupid. How could I have fallen for Justin like that? Where did all of my common sense go?
It's not your fault, the Guardian whispered. You want to help others. It's valiant of you to care. Justin played to your personality.
It was nice of the Guardian to defend me, but I had to know what Goodwin was going to say. I looked up at him, scared that he would kick me out.
"Blue," he began, his blue eyes wide with grief. "I am so, so sorry all of this happened to you. I never could've guessed how hard you had it. But I want you to know, I'm here for you no matter what. You have a place to stay for as long as you need one, and that won't change."
"Wait," I said. "Really? You mean that? You don't hate me for being such an idiot?"
"Why would I hate you?" Goodwin said. "For being taken advantage of by a man you thought you could trust? Never!"
Goodwin's eyes grew dark with an emotion that I thought might be hatred.
"You're staying here until you want to leave, and that's the end of it. I won't let your mother or any other slimy jerks get at you, not in my house. Now get up!" he said suddenly. "You're exhausted, and you need to sleep. Here, I'll show you where to sleep."
I got in bed immediately, reveling in the warmth of the covers. I decided then that the hard part was over. Looking into Goodwin's compassionate face as I succumbed to sleep, I knew that I had at last found peace.
I'm sorry this took so long to get out, but I hope it's worth the wait! I cut this update a little short to get it out, but another one will be here soon, I promise :)