“So, Grandma and Grandpa, huh?” I said, looking back at the red Dodge pickup truck in the driveway. “Things are gonna be different.” I lowered my voice. “A lot.”
“For now. When the rest of your father’s life insurance comes, we’ll help them find a place of their own. Until then, I don’t want to hear any negativity.”
I unbuckled my seatbelt, slid from my seat and out my door, and stood like a newborn foal on concrete next to the sweet smell of country grass coming from an open window. A memory charged at me, but I hurried away from it and followed Mom to the back door.
The door opened and a shorthaired, red-haired woman wearing a green sweatshirt, blue jeans and pink tennis shoes, stepped out and greeted us. Then she hurried to me and hugged me.
“I’m so glad you’re okay,” Grandma Evelyn said, stepping back and appraising me with a smile. “How do you feel? Can I get you anything?”
“I’m … better,” I said. “I have to have more tests, but….”
Grandma raised an eyebrow.
“It’s true,” Mom said. “It’s all about getting to the bottom of this tumor and getting it taken care of.”
“Which isn’t going to happen with us standing in the garage, talking about it.” Grandma put an arm across the back of my shoulders.
She, Mom, and the garage vanished.
The young woman tried to be her quietest when she closed the apartment’s front door, but the click of the latch seemed like a gunshot to her. She held her breath as she leaned her forehead against the door’s cool wood. Would Trevor awaken and find her gone? Or would Balen awaken in his crib and alert his father that she had abandoned them?
What sort of mother abandons their baby?
She held the doorknob in her grip and willed herself not to cry. Not now. There would be plenty of time to cry later. Now was a time to be levelheaded and leave before she changed her mind.
All her young adult life had been spent running away from her past, searching for the real her. Trevor had been certain getting married next month and living a life of magic would be best for her. But when Balen had levitated the lamp last night, she knew she would never be comfortable with that kind of life.
She released the knob, crept down the stairs to the double glass doors of the vestibule, and entered the seven a.m. crawl of college students, professors, and campus workers along Maple Boulevard. She turned away from faces and automobiles that looked familiar and hurried to and out the black iron front gate of New Cambridge University. She buttoned her green wool coat to keep out the March wind blowing at her while she pressed on.
The Greyhound bus station was dimly lit but warm. Her bus left in a half-hour. Would Trevor know she was here?
She sat in the hard plastic seat near the loading doors, stared at the snack vending machine next to the cigarette machine, and wished she had brought some nickels and dimes with her. But she had put all her coins in Balen’s piggy bank last night, and the billfold in her purse contained only a few dollars left from her last paycheck from O’Brien’s Bar.
A tall young man exited the phone booth next to the cigarette machine and dropped a white piece of folded paper. He sat two chairs to her right and seemed unaware of the paper on the dark tile floor. Was it important?
“You dropped something,” she said to him.
He looked at her with pleasant eyes that seemed as black as the long, wool duffel coat he wore. Unlike other men his age, his dark brown hair was short and he sported no sideburns or beard of any kind.
She pointed a forefinger at the paper. He held his gaze on her and his expression turned to curiosity and then to recognition.
“Evelyn Doyle. Hey, it’s me, Jack Lybrook.”
She flinched at the mention of her name. “Do I know you?”
“We went to Ridgewood High, though you were a grade behind me. And my parents and I used to go to your dad’s church when you and I were kids. I was Jonathan … or Johnny back then.”
Evelyn nodded as complete recognition sunk in. Many boys had gone to her father’s Pentecostal church, but only Johnny Lybrook and few others had ever whispered to their friends how pretty Evelyn was.
“I go by Jack now,” he said. “Like JFK did.”
Evelyn glanced at the clock above the loading doors. Five minutes had passed. She looked again at the folded paper on the floor.
“You dropped that,” she said, pointing again.
“My notes. Thank you.” Jack fetched the paper and returned to his seat. “I’m looking to buy some farm property in Ridgewood … maybe start a dairy farm after I graduate college.”
“Are you a student at New Cambridge?”
“No. I go to Penn State. It has a first-class agriculture program and excellent business courses. Our Spring Break is over and I’m catching the next bus.” He raised an eyebrow. “You?”
Evelyn looked around. Except for the man at the ticket window, it was just the two of them. If Trevor found her before her bus left, would Jack try to protect her? She didn’t want anyone getting hurt because of her. But that’s what she did: hurt the ones she loved.
She broke down and wept. She felt Jack’s arms around her before she saw that he now sat next to her. She welcomed his comfort and tried to hide inside his embrace. He hushed her sobs and wiped away her tears with a handkerchief.
He held her until a man’s voice announced over the intercom that it was time to board the bus heading east.
Evelyn took Jack’s hand and let him lead her through the loading doors, away from the man who claimed to be a wizard, and a thirteen-month-old son who could perform magic stronger than hers. As she boarded the bus, she vowed to leave magic forever.