Ossani, Morgan of Pangaea, opened her eyes at one minute past midnight and fought to draw a breath. The burden of the Bidding she had borne easily for so long, now a crushing weight.
Her long-time attendant and friend, Adelev rushed to her bedside. “I’ve called the healer.”
Ossani’s chest rose slightly, allowing enough sweet air into her lungs to force out her command in a whisper. “It is time. Bring my daughter to me.”
Adelev adjusted the Morgan’s pillows, blinking back half-formed tears. “I will see to it at once.”
Ossani found her next breath easier and patted her friend’s hand. “I’ll be fine. I didn’t expect it to be so painful this soon. Go … Bring Amia home.”
Her eyelids grew heavy, but she struggled to keep them open long enough to watch Adelev depart. She had the utmost faith in her friend. Everyone on Pangaea knew the significance of this day. Like the phases of the moon, the succession of the Morgan never varied. After twenty years, her daughter’s potential began it’s waxing cycle, and Ossani’s power and life would begin to wane. There could only be one Morgan.
Had it not been for the Brotherhood, she could have summoned her daughter sooner. There was barely enough time to prepare Amia for her new role. Adelev would not let them down.
A moment later, the traditional pale blue of a healer’s gown appeared next to her bed, and a soft hiss of the med-gun brought instant relief. She breathed deeply, relishing the vital act, and regaining strength with each inhalation. “Thank you, Healer Enari.”
The healer bowed her head. “I will remain by your side for the next month. I’m sorry I cannot stop your decline, Morgan Ossani, but I can make the pain easier to bear.”
Ossani managed a whispered laugh, “If my daughter is anything like me, I will need every bit of your assistance.”
Getting drunk wasn’t as easy as it seemed.
Right away, I could see at least two problems. First, I had to order. The legal age to purchase alcohol in Massachusetts is twenty-one. Today was my birthday, but I’d only turned twenty. Not to worry, determination has always been one of my strengths.
All my life, I’d played by the rules. After this morning’s disaster, I figure it was time to break a few. Yeah, underage drinking. You’re a real rebel, Amy.
A girl’s gotta start somewhere, right? I wrestled the fake ID from within the depths of my bag with unsteady fingers. I’d never had to use it before, but then I’d always been with my fiancé, Ken. Everything came easily to Ken: a high-paying job, a great apartment, and a nice car. Maybe things worked out so well for Ken because he met every standard set by society. He was a tall, attractive, white man in blue-blooded Boston.
Whatever the reason, Fortune often smiled on him. Me, on the other hand, if something could go wrong.…
Relax. It’s a good fake; Ken only buys the best.
At the bartender’s approach, I leaned one hip against the curved edge of the bar, slid my card across the polished surface, and smiled. The soft lights behind the bar sent sparkles of light bouncing off of my ring, the stone larger than I would have chosen, its platinum band in vivid contrast to my dark skin.
“What’ll you have?” he studied my card for a nanosecond.
All that anxiety for nothing. I slid onto the worn wooden stool and tucked the card back into my bag.
My second problem, I had no idea what to order. I don’t drink. I’d been in bars before with my friend, Liza. We’d grab a quick dinner of burgers and potato skins or maybe a hot bowl of clam chowder and a soda. Even when Ken and I went out, I ordered iced tea or water. The only reason I needed the card was to get into the clubs to dance. Today, I wanted a drink. “Whatever’s on draft.” I answered, parroting Ken and his friends.
“Got a new micro-brew in. Wanna give it a try?” I had no idea what a micro-brew tasted like, but his smile encouraged me.
“Sure, why not?”
A moment later, he placed the foaming concoction in front of me. I lifted it and took a deep drink. And that would be another problem with getting drunk — Eww! Sour, bitter not at all like I’d imagined. How did people drink this stuff?
Like I said, I’m determined. I took another long swallow and shivered it down. The many years of Emma’s ingrained ‘Stranger Danger’ kicked in, reminding me to take note of the darkened pub – Emma, my guardian since I could remember, and the closest thing I had to a mother – How was I going to break the news to her? That particular question called for another deep swig of brew.
It was too early for the bar to be busy. Soon the lunch crowd would storm the place, but for now there were only a few patrons. An old man sat at the other end of the bar, apparently captivated by the bottom of his glass. A guy close to my age tapped away on his phone. I shifted on my stool to check out the back of the room.
A nice-looking man, alone in a booth, who looked to be in his late thirties raised his glass in my direction. I returned the gesture, making sure my shiny new diamond flashed on my finger when I lifted the glass to my lips, and then turned back to the bartender.
Funny what a single appreciative glance from a man does to a girl’s self-esteem. I’m not used to being flirted with. I’m not what anyone would consider beautiful. Pretty maybe, I have that caramel skin tone other women spend hours in tanning salons trying to achieve, but my hair is too straight, my lips are too full, and I’m too tall. Besides, I rarely wear makeup or do any more to my hair than tie it back in a ponytail. Anyway, I didn’t come here to get picked up. I had more important things on my mind today.
“Birthdays are supposed to be fun. Good things are supposed to happen on your birthday, right?” I asked the bartender after I downed the rest of the glass.
“Great things.” He grinned and slid another foaming micro-brewed wheat beer over to me. “Happy Birthday. This one’s on the house.”
I shot him a half-smile in return. “Thanks.”
He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the bar. “So, tell me what happened.”
Somehow, it felt weirdly right to tell this guy I’d never met my problems even before I told my fiancé or my guardians. “I got kicked out of class. I’ll probably lose my scholarship.”
“Ouch. That hurts.”
I shrugged. “More than you know.”
“Believe me, I know. Why do you think I’m here tending bar instead of in school?”
“You lost a scholarship, too?”
“And then some.” He raised a finger signaling he’d return in a minute, moved away with an amber bottle in hand, and refilled a shot glass for the older man.
“So what happened,” I asked once he’d returned.
He picked up a glass and began to polish it with a white bar towel. “I was recruited to play hockey for the Boston Terriers; full ride.”
“And?” I finished my second micro-brew. It didn’t taste too bad anymore.
“I tore some ligaments in my knee.” He shrugged and placed another full glass before me. “The team doc fixed me up and sent me back out to play. Messed up my knee even worse. Now, I can’t play, so they don’t pay, and I have to go through life wearing a brace and dealing with the pain.” He scowled. “I hear it only gets worse with age.”
“That doesn’t sound fair either. They could’ve at least let you finish school.”
The man at the end of the bar spoke up. “Life’s not fair, missy. Might as well learn that lesson now.”
I spun to face him. Why did people seem to think it their duty to inform me of this? I might have to deal with it when it came from my guardians, but I didn’t need to take it from this stranger eavesdropping on a private conversation. “Maybe not, but it should be.”
I lifted the glass and sipped at my third brew. I expected a tingly buzz in my head from the beer, but instead a relaxing warmth infused my legs making them feel as if they were made of heavy syrup.
The old man slid a few bills on the bar and stood to leave. “Ah-yep. Should, but it ain’t.”
The bartender scooped up the money and frowned at his tip. “So what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know.” I picked up the glass and upended it. Before I was half through, I slammed it down onto the bar. “Yes, I do.”
His brow quirked up.
“I’m gonna go have a word with the dean. I’m not going down without a fight. Here.” I shoved two twenties into his hand. I had no idea how much beer cost, but life had been unkind to him. “Keep the change.”
I slid off my stool and realized the next challenge was to walk on legs made of rubber.
“You okay? I can call you a cab.” Concern brushed his features, but I shook my head.
“No, thanks. I just need a minute.” By which I meant, a nap. I shook off the sudden lethargy claiming my limbs, drew in a deep breath, and stepped to the door, carefully placing one foot in front of the other.
“Hey, what’s your name — ?”
I was too busy navigating the weight of the door to answer. Maybe I’d stop back tomorrow and have another microbrew. The last one tasted pretty good, and I kind of liked this warm, heavy feeling which had by now spread throughout my body. I certainly appreciated the new clarity of purpose. Instead of accepting Maestro’s word about my scholarship, I’d go right to the top – to the dean himself. We’d set this mistake right, and I’d get back on track.
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