Word Count: 3332 | Estimated Reading Time: 16 Minutes
In Chapter Two, Xanthe burns the pages of tattoos and after overhearing a conversation between Kit and his father and realises that Kit is sacrificing everything for her. She consults the Book of Words which shows her a portal to a house and she asks Kit to meet her, for the last time.
Kit had planned to go for a ride on his bike after the argument with his dad, but he was too angry. He found himself at the Wishing Well. He flexed his fists and stretched his arms up above his head, his t-shirt riding up his stomach. Since returning from the Kingdom, he’d put a little more weight on and developed some muscles. A more toned body, not unlike Malik. He couldn’t stop looking at himself. Not only did he feel different, he looked different. More like he had dreamed of for some time.
He reached for the newspaper cutting he’d shoved into his back pocket. He knew that this had some significance, somehow. Important information about Xanthe’s mother and proof that she probably just didn’t abandon her like she thought. What she would think about coven’s and witches he could only just imagine, but he’d been researching the symbols and there were definitely some connections. But that didn’t matter to him, anyway. After all, that was where medicine had started with the pagans and the women who had made tinctures and remedies with plants and herbs. His father’s precious medical degree wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for them.
He hated arguments and confrontation, especially with his father, but just lately he was always on his back, always having a go at him as if nothing he did was right. And he felt guilty about lying to his father, too. His mother had always told him that lying was so unnecessary, that the truth, even if it hurts, was always the right path to take.
Kit thumped the edge of the well, regretting his action when the skin on his knuckles split. He sucked at the blood. His whole life had revolved around him becoming a doctor, like his dad. And at one time, he thought that was what he wanted. Or did he just want to make his dad happy? He didn’t know anymore. He didn’t know whether he could pull it off, whether he was good enough to follow in his dad’s footsteps. More so, he didn’t know if he wanted to be far away from Xanthe. Was that really stopping him?
He took out the moonstone, from his pocket. The stone Xanthe had retrieved from Toovah. He had taken it everywhere with him since she had given it to him. At first, when they had returned from the kingdom, they had regularly chatted with each other using the power of mind transfer. He could do this because of the blood they had shared. So although Kit didn’t possess any of the powers, they could talk to each other. But she had been deliberately cutting him out. He gazed at it, willing it to glow. But it hadn’t for ages, not in a long time. Xanthe had blocked him somehow. Or someone else had. Come on, Xanthe, he pleaded. Let me in.
The stone remained a dull creamy colour, rather like porridge. The dull surface didn’t even glint in the sunlight. He sat down at the edge of the wishing well and half considered jumping in again. Horus would know what to do. That wise old bird had counselled him about many things. He wondered if Xanthe had spoken to Horus. Kit didn’t think so; he thought she wanted to forget all about it. But why? He held the bead up to the light, towards where the moon would be.
“Come on, help me out here, will you?”
“Who are you talking to? An unfamiliar voice asked, and Kit jumped, almost falling into the well. He pushed out his arm and steadied himself on the edge. He turned to see a girl, Melanie. The girl who made Xanthe’s life hell standing in front of him. He stiffened.
“No-one he said guardedly as he turned to face her full on. He shoved the bead back in his pocket.
“Talking to yourself is the first sign of madness, so my granny used to say.” Melanie sauntered closer, a smile playing at her lips. She had features that were pretty, but there was something ugly about her. She looked just like all the other girls at the centre. Same style hair, clothing, way of standing. As if they were all programmed. Like automatons.
“Penny for them?” Melanie took another step forward before sitting down on the edge of the well.
“Penny?” repeated Kit. Maybe he could find Xanthe through Melanie. After all, she was her nemesis. She would know where Xanthe was. Anything was worth a try.
“It’s a saying, you know, penny for your thoughts and all that.” Melanie threw back her head. “I can’t read minds, you know. I thought you were the clever one, university and all, like your dad?”
Kit bristled at the mention of mind reading. He wouldn’t want her to know what he was thinking. Melanie scuttled closer to him. It took all his strength not to move away. He didn’t want to offend, miss his chance. Not until he had the information he wanted.
He forced a smile. “Nothing much to be honest, just having a break from studying, that’s all.” He unconsciously brought out the bead from his pocket and rolled it around in his fingers as he gathered his thoughts. “My dad seems to think that taking a break is a bad idea.” He half laughed, but he didn’t feel happy. He felt like he was betraying Xanthe. The sooner he could find out where she was, the better.
Melanie jumped onto the edge of the wishing well and stepped around it, like a tight-rope walker.
“Get down, Melanie. You could fall.”
“Course I won’t and anyway, you’ll save me, won’t you?” She leant over him.
“What’s that?” Melanie asked, reaching for the bead in his hand. He pulled away and Melanie screamed as she lost her balance. Her foot slipped, and she tumbled on the rim before toppling over, her hands clutching onto the edge. Kit grabbed her wrists and pulled with all his might. She was heavier than she looked. Melanie got a grip with one knee, then pull the other leg up. She rolled over the edge and back onto the ground where she stood, smoothing her skirt down.
“That was a close call,” she said. “What would they have said if I’d fallen in?”
Kit reached for the moon stone and rolled it between his fingers again, his muscles aching with the effort of pulling her out. “That you were being stupid by walking around the edge?”
Melanie shrugged. “I could tell them you pushed me.” She laughed a deep belly laugh and Kit curled his lip in distaste. “Can’t you take a joke?” She peered at the bead in Kit’s fingers. “That’s one of hers, isn’t it?” Melanie’s mouth turned down at the corners as if she had a nasty taste in her mouth.
“Who’s?” asked Kit, though he knew full well who she meant.
“Xanthe, Xanthe Rivers. That’s one of those stupid plastic beads she’s so fond of. Probably from the pound shelf in Woollies.”
“They’re not plastic. If you need to know, they are troll beads and this one, in fact, is a moonstone.” Kit immediately regretted saying more than he intended.
“Troll beads, Moonstone? Are you off your rocket like your moon face girlfriend?” Melanie mocked, taking out a packet of cigarettes and lighting one. The sickly nicotine smell drafted across his face, and he wafted it away. Usually, it would have set off his asthma, but he hadn’t had an attack since they returned from the Kingdom.
“She’s not my girlfriend,” muttered Kit under his breath.
“No? I get you’d like her to be, wouldn’t you? I don’t know why. She’s pure evil, always has been. Thinks she’s better than everyone else just cos she’s lived here forever.” Melanie blew out a long trail of smoke.
“She is not evil!” choked Kit.
“Well, you would say that, wouldn’t you? She set fire to my room. How is that for evil? And I’ve seen that mark on the back of her neck. It’s the sign of a witch, it says so in our history project. And that surely means she’s evil.” Melanie leaned in, her nose wrinkled with hate. “Won’t do you any good mixing with the likes of her.
Kit pulled away. “Xanthe is not a witch. Not yet anyway. She probably descends from a witch though.” Kit stuttered and stammered. “She’s far better than you any day. She is Princess Ayla if you want to know, the Moon Princess, and she has lots of powers.” He pointed his finger at her. “If you’d fallen down there, you would’ve ended up in the Kingdom. It’s a portal. And anyway, you should be careful what you say. Xanthe killed the evil dryad Toovah...” He trailed off as the look of horror on Melanie’s face turned to laughter as she stood up.
“Yeah, right? Whatever you say. I’m on my way over to yours. Your Dad has given me a job.”
As Kit watched Melanie walked off, her ponytail swishing behind her, he heard a faint voice in his head. The moonstone glowed. His heart leapt in his chest.
Xanthe? Is that you? Please, let me in. We need to talk.
He waited with bated breath, praying that she would let him in. She didn’t let him down.
Xanthe sat in her bedroom after she’d done everything she could to leave things in order for Doc Stephens. How Melanie would get on with the job, she didn’t know, and she didn’t care. There was only one thing she could do, and that was to make Kit see that this couldn’t go on. She had to make him believe she didn’t care. She would have to be cruel to be kind. There he was again, trying to get into her head. Xanthe swallowed, her throat dry and constricted. It was the only way she’d been on her own before and she could be again. It was the best way she knew it.
Hey, Kit. She tried to keep it light, not wanting him to get too excited.
Xanthe! Look first, I’m sorry—
No. Please. Don’t apologise. I… we need to talk. Can we meet up?
The words tumbled out of her mind. The sooner she got this over with, the better. A sharp pain in her chest took her breath away, and she bent over, counted to seven.
Yes, of course! Kit shouted, as if he wanted to make sure she heard him. She put her hands over her ears, but it didn’t help. Where? When?
Blue Bell Woods. Ten minutes.
Xanthe then shut her mind, thinking only of the next few moments. When she was sure that Kit had gone, she looked around the house. Trying to take some pictures in her mind. Trying to capture the happiness she had enjoyed here. It just wasn’t to be.
Her determination set, Xanthe took a deep breath and walked out of the house towards the woods. Bluebell woods where it all started. The beads on her wrist glowed.
Xanthe sat down under a large elm where she had first met Horus and spent a few minutes making herself comfortable amongst the huge roots of the tree, which erupted from the ground like long fingers. The grass was dry and scratchy. It had been a long hot summer, and the ground was hard, but she eventually found a small dip that suited. The afternoon light was dipping. Soon, with the sun shining through the canopy warming her body, Xanthe dozed off for what only seemed like minutes. Kit woke her, calling her name.
“Xanthe? It’s me Kit, where are you hiding?” His voice resonated around the woods and the bead glowed. His voice was excited. Hopeful. Standing up, she was suddenly unsure of her tactics. She’d hoped to have rehearsed what she was going to say, gently, but now her heart banged like a drum and her palms were slick with sweat. She rubbed them along her leggings. Relax, she told herself, and counted to seven. You can do this, and you will do this. She cleared his throat and shouted back to him.
“I’m over here by the big Wych Elm.” The rustling got louder and Kit came running through the ferns. His face flushed bright red, and he wore a huge grin. She couldn’t help herself and smiled back at him and then realised that she shouldn’t. She focused on the ground in between them.
“I heard you, you know, like in the Kingdom. I thought we’d lost it. Being back here,” he said, the excitement in his voice rising as he stared back at her. “You okay?” He held out his hands and stepped towards her. She automatically took a step back. He shrugged and kicked at the dry soil, raising some dust and dropped a bag at his feet.
“I bought us a little picnic.” He pulled out some cider from the rucksack, a packet of crisps and some chocolate Hobnobs, just like their first time when they were looking for the portals. Her tummy rumbled. Her favourites. Kit sat down and tore open a bag of crisps and shovelled some in his mouth.
“Haven’t seen you in ages,” he said, spattering crumbs all over the place. “Sorry for bursting last night.” He patted the grass beside him. “Come on, sit down and tell me what you’ve been up to.”
Xanthe didn’t want to sit down, but she knelt before him and grabbed a biscuit to nibble on, trying to gain some time to gather her thoughts. Why hadn’t she thought this through properly? It was so much more difficult face to face. Her stomach growled angrily as the biscuit hovered over her mouth and she chewed, concentrating on what she needed to say.
Kit squinted as he looked at her. “Have you lost weight? You look, well, thinner and tired.”
“I’m alright,” snapped Xanthe a little too abruptly and Kit stopped munching, the hurt clear on his face. “I’ve just been busy with helping your dad,” she said a little more softly. “He’s been very kind. And I know he wants the best for you.” She picked at the daisies in front of her, ripping off seven petals at a time. “I’m sorry I haven’t been around for sometime but I need to—”
“Hey,” Kit interrupted, as if he didn’t really want to hear what she had to say. “I’ve been doing some research. You know about your mother. I think she might have a connection to the Larmer Tree Gardens, well the family.” Kit was rambling, barely taking the time to take a breath. “The Larmer Tree Gardens, in fact,” Kit ran his arm around him. “All this estate and the centre is owned by Lord Rivers and he built the centre on the grounds.” Kit took a swig of cider from the bottle. He handed it to her, but she shook her head.
She knew all about the estate. This had been all she’d known. But it was of no interest to her. In the hall of the Wishing Well Centre there were some information boards about its history. How the Rivers family had donated the land and building to care specifically for children who needed help and support at whatever time in their life.
That Xanthe had been the only permanent resident had caused her grief in more ways than one. It was difficult to make and keep friendships when the other kids came and went. Melanie had been a regular, but most of them never returned. Once the problems at home were solved and back, they went to their families. To their mothers.
“Are you listening to me?” Kit asked.
“Of course I am, yes.”
“What did I just say?” A smile tugged at his lips.
“Oh, something about the estate.” Xanthe waved her hand around.
“Nope, I said there was a big white bird—”
“Horus?” Xanthe swung around. “Stop teasing me, Kit. I was listening. I told you, Kit. I don’t want to know—” she lied. Although she knew Kit would be helpful, she had to do this in her own way. On her own.
“But I thought, after Nokomi, after, well, you know everything, you are the Moon Princess after all.”
“I don’t want to be the Moon Princess,” cried Xanthe, “I don’t want any of this. I wanted none of this and most of all I don’t want you snooping around my business.” She prodded her chest with her finger so hard it hurt.
Kit raised his eyebrows and swallowed several times. He shoved the piece of paper he’d produced out of his pocket back in again, stabbing at his jeans. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude, it’s just that I thought—” Kit shrugged and shuffled over to Xanthe, who kept her focus behind Kit on a patch of daisies.
She didn’t know how to tell him gently. He leaned in, pushing away one of her braids and leaned in towards her. He smelt like apples.
“I only wanted to help”.
Suddenly Kit was kissing her, his lips on hers and at first, for a second, she responded before pulling away. She was supposed to be ending their friendship not kissing him.
“Stop it.” She wiped her lips. “You just don’t understand, do you? This is a waste of time, all of this.” Xanthe stood up and snatched her bag. “We can’t see each other anymore,” she stuttered, refusing to look at him. She couldn’t bear the look on his face and turned away, shaking her head. “I don’t want to see you, Kit. Never.” She walked off.
“Hey, wait. I didn’t mean to—” Kit reached out and grabbed one of her wrists, twisting the skin where the tattoo was.
“Ow” Xanthe flinched, and her sleeve skipped up, exposing the two wolves. Kit’s eyes widened like saucers, and she quickly snatched her arm away, pulling down the material.
“Another tattoo?” Kit asked with a sarcastic tone. “Where did you get that done?”
Xanthe shook her head. “I didn’t. It just appeared, like the other one.”
“A likely story,” said Kit, his voice thick with emotion. Her rejection had hit him hard, but it was the only way, no matter how awful, it made her feel.
“Believe what you want,” Xanthe replied tartly. “I know what I know.”
“It was always about Malik, wasn’t it?” Kit’s voice quivered with his anger. “You blame me for his death, don’t you? That’s why you don’t want to see me.” His lips trembled.
“It has nothing to do with Malik.” Xanthe just wanted to leave, return to her loneliness. “This is about me and nothing else. I don’t want to find my mother, and I don’t want to see you anymore. It’s best for both of us.” She walked away.
“Yeah, that’s right, because you loved the wolf man, Malik, and that’s really what this is all about. I’m not good enough for you now you’re some Moon Princess. Melanie said you were above yourself.” Kit’s voice had risen into a shout. The rage within Xanthe at the mention of Melanie’s name rose, and the tips of her fingers warmed.
“I do not, and did not, love Malik. I don’t love anyone.” She thrust her hands forward, unable to control herself by setting light to the dry bracken around Kit and as the flames took hold, she panicked and brought her hands down. Kit beat at the flames with his hands, only making things worse until Xanthe grabbed the bottle of cider and threw it at the flames before turning to go.
The palpitations in her chest took flight like a flock of birds. Her heart pounded painfully against her ribs, and she felt as if she was suffocating. As if the world was closing in on her. She had to go through with this. She had to make him believe.
“I’m sorry, Kit, but this is the only way. I can’t be around you.” She sobbed. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to see you again. Ever.”
The fourth episode of Thunder Moon will be posted next Friday at midnight. This first book in the the serialisation of The Luna Legends is free to all my subscribers and I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you so much for your support.