For Bev Schroeder: You have always been an amazing friend. I hope you enjoy this.
Hearing his name out of the blue like that was like watching the ghosts of old times walk down new streets.
Ayla was not happy about having been made to return to her hometown. It had been over twenty-five years since she had left and even though she had never uttered the words out loud to anyone, herself included, she knew it was true.
Her aunt had called her to tell her that there had been a death. Most of the family she would have simply sent flowers. She was prepared to hear so many of the names except this one. Her aunt told her Patrick Barnes had died. PJ. She had left that evening.
Now sitting in the main diner in town looking out the window onto the frozen lake that was the main attraction for this small town, Ayla didn’t have a plan. She didn’t know the next step to take.
Lost in thought, she was startled when the waitress asked if she wanted more coffee. She looked down at her cup, coffee now cold and realized she was just as frozen as the lake. She needed to do something or leave. Doing nothing was just breaking down her carefully built walls.
Ayla shook her head and before the waitress could walk away, she asked, “Excuse me. Did you know PJ… I mean Patrick Barnes?” her voice was hoarse.
The look on the waitress’s face turned sad. “Yes. I knew him.” It almost seemed that she did not want to continue when she said, “His funeral is tomorrow,” and then she turned and walked away.
They were putting him, PJ, in the ground tomorrow. This was happening too soon.
Ayla got up and left a twenty on the table and headed out. When she got in the car, she knew there was only one place she could go. She drove for over an hour. The back roads were still there and even though she shouldn’t have remembered every detail of how to get there she did.
She got out of the car and the wind had picked up. She bundled up as best she could and headed out. It wasn’t far and she was standing in front of the tree. She could find the marks. The last bit of physical proof of what they had done.
The tree was still scorched, as if it couldn’t heal from the damage. It had been too great. The damage to them had been too great as well.
She brushed aside the snow to find the marks. There initials carved so many years ago within a crude star shape. Rachel had found the spell, she was the first that… She had died five years to the day that PJ did. There were three more initials; hers, MR, and JP. None of them had spoken in years.
The spell that had bound them to their wish had also torn them apart. They had asked for something that was a child’s whim.
Now she didn’t know if there was a pattern or… she really didn’t know if she was next.
Again lost in thought and simply tracing and retracing the symbols, she heard a branch snap behind her… she turned. “Michael?” she asked as she saw his face.