“But your mom can use this.”
“She may know it’s there,” Brian said. “So we leave it.”
“Okay.” She put the money back in reluctantly.
Other items followed. A packet of pictures was in an envelope at the bottom of the stack. The color prints were faded and brittle, as if they were old. A few fell out onto the floor. Jordan picked them up, dropping them with a gasp.
“That’s you!” She pointed accusingly at her father. “What are you doing in pictures in Brian’s house?”
Heath picked up the pictures, smiling fondly. “Wow, that takes me back a few years. Yes, that’s me,” he admitted. “And that’s Brian’s dad and Clifford Finley. We went to high school together.”
“Is that Mom?” Jordan stabbed the photograph.
“Yes. And there’s Maribelle.”
“Why did you act like you’d never met her before? You never said!”
Heath sighed, holding the picture fondly. “I’d almost forgotten that summer. That was the year we all turned fifteen. My birthday was in March, your mom’s in June. This was at Miles’ party in May. Born just about the same time as you,” he said to Brian.
“The day before,” Brian replied quietly. “And mom’s birthday is in June, just like Jackie’s.”
“Oak, Ash and Hawthorne,” Jordan whispered. “Just like us. Dad? What’s going on?”
Her father didn’t answer right away. He put the things back in the safe and removed the key from the wall. He handed it to Brian. When the key was removed, the hole closed.
“Let’s put up the picture. At least now we know we don’t have to move it every time,” Heath suggested.
“You still haven’t answered my question,” Jordan said. “What’s going on?”
“That summer, things changed. Stuff started happening. And this stranger came out of nowhere—a bum in the woods. It was rumored that he was breaking into houses and stealing things. No one could prove it, but the police did their best to run him off. It wasn’t until our parents got involved that they finally got rid of him. No one saw him again for almost twenty years. Until he showed up at our door.”
“How did he get in? Didn’t you recognize him?”
“I did, but by that time, he was already inside. Your mom never saw him before,” he told Jordan. “She invited him in when I wasn’t there. By that time, he’d gotten his shoe in and influenced all three of us before I realized what had happened.”
“How did you fight him off?” Brian asked. “He didn’t have nearly the hold on you he had on our mothers.”
“I didn’t drink his tea, I just pretended. And I used the same charm you did later. The salt was a nice touch.”
“Mr. Finley gave that to me.”
Heath nodded. “Cliff Finley always had a way with charms. He was better at them than the rest of us. Your mother was the one who had an affinity for stones and metals,” he told Jordan. “Maribelle always had a way with plants. Her tisanes and potions are amazing.”
“Charms? Potions? Dad, you make this sound like something out of Harry Potter. What are you guys, witches or something?”
Her father didn’t reply. Instead, he sat at the table and folded his hands in front of him. He waited for the teenagers to join him. They sat, leaning forward expectantly.
“For lack of a better term, you could call us witches, but Druids might be more accurate. Our families know about the old ways and keep them alive. When we reach fifteen, a sort of floodgate opens and we start to see things and have unusual experiences.”
“You call having fog creatures stalk you—unusual?” Jordan asked angrily.
“I don’t know what to call it,” Heath replied. “We never had stuff like that happen. But you have to remember that this is a pivotal year. This is the year everything changes.”
“Because the Aztec calendar says the world is going to end?” Brian’s suggestion was somewhat sarcastic.
“Not entirely. It’s not going to end, but much will change. It’s like that every hundred years or so.”
“You’d think it would be in the year two thousand instead of now,” Brian said.
“Not all calendars are the same and there are discrepancies. Who knows how it originally started. Anyway, your great-great-great grandmother was born in 1917, five years after the last major upheaval. There’s a special child in each generation of each family.”
© 2016 Dellani Oakes