Evan is bundled up on the sofa, huddled under a blanket and rubbing his hands together. It’s cold in the little once-abandoned cabin. Though the day was warm enough – the kind of bright spring day that brings people out for the first taste of warm weather after three months of winter – the nights still held a bitter chill, and the cabin didn’t have any kind of heat beyond the small space heater I bought just in case. Just in case. The whole one-room cabin, like everything else about our lives, was a matter of just in case: the bags of canned food and water bottles stacked against one rickety wall, the spare clothes in a small tote against another, and the little sofa from the thrift store that would serve as our bed tonight. His entire life since leaving Mom has been a series of apartments and hideouts like these. Just for once, I’d like to have him live in a proper home.
The kettle shrieked, jumping me out of my thoughts. I mentally brushed them away as I poured us both cups of tea. No milk, of course, but at least it would be something warm to go with our small bowls of Progresso soup. Damn, there I go again. Self-pity wasn’t going to save our lives, it wasn’t going to find us a safe place to live, and it wasn’t going to keep Mom from finding us again.
“Here,” I said, handing him a chipped mug. I settled down on the couch next to him. “Drink up, it’ll keep you warm.”
We drank in silence, our thoughts too filled with fear and apprehension to risk saying anything. Or at least, that’s what I thought.
“Maybe you should go back,” Evan said.
I nearly dropped my cup in shock. “What?”
“Maybe you should go back home,” Evan said again, and again I had a hard time believing what he just said. “Apologize to Mom, you know, and then you wouldn’t have to live like this anymore.”
“Are you insane?” I put down my cup, afraid I really will drop it if I hear any more crazy ideas from him. “You really think an apology will cut it? That she’ll just let me go and live happily ever after if I just stop helping you?”
“No,” he said, indignation rising in his voice, as he huddled further down into his blanket until all I can see are his eyes and the bridge of his nose. “But you wouldn’t have to live like this anymore. Maybe you wouldn’t -”
I shook my head. “It wouldn’t work. She’d either kill me for opposing her, or she’d make me come after you. Either way, my chances are best if I stay with you.” I reached around him and pulled him into a hug, fitting his head underneath my chin. “You’re stuck with me little brother.”
I heard a sob from somewhere around my chest. “Thanks, sis.”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll figure something out.”
“Like what?” He lifted his head away from me and looked up with a pair of glistening, huge brown eyes. “She found us so soon this time.”
“She must have some way of tracking us. Probably through our blood, if I had to guess.” Mom’s magic wasn’t only powerful, she had hundreds of years to gather knowledge and experience. She practically wrote the book on magic; it was like trying to outwit the Devil. And she’d do anything to keep her power, including murder her own children. I repressed a shudder. I didn’t like to think about how many brothers I may have had had Mom not…
“What are we going to do next?” Evan asked, now back to huddling under his blanket.
“Whatever we can,” I said with more confidence than I really felt. If she really has found a way to track us, time was not on our side; we may not even have until morning. Mom wasn’t human, and wasn’t bound by things like sleep or food or occasionally the laws of nature.
But then again, I’m not completely human, either. Mom always made sure we knew this, that we were never bound by the same rules as regular mortals.
I jumped off the couch, startling Evan in the process.
“What? What? Is it Mom?” he asked, throwing off his blanket and jumping off the couch after me.
“No, no,” I said, trying to calm him. “No, it’s just that I’ve thought of something. Pack your bags, Evan. We’re going to see a wizard.”