Authors: Michelle Madow
Walking inside, I was painfully aware of the vial of potion in my bag and what I had to do with it in the next few minutes. At least Alistair had promised the solution was tasteless, so my mom wouldn’t know I’d added it to her drink.
“Did you have fun at the mall?” my mom asked from her study.
“It was fun,” I said. “Crowded, though. I’m exhausted. I’m going to make some tea—do you want some?”
“Sure,” she replied. “I just have to finish something up, and then I’ll be right over.”
I figured that’s what would happen. My mom thought Black Friday was a pseudo-holiday—a reason to get Americans shopping—so she didn’t consider it an appropriate reason to take off work. I figured she was in her office dealing with paperwork, or whatever she did when I was at school.
I went into the kitchen and took out my favorite mug with the word “cocoa” written all over it in different colors, along with a plain, white mug for my mom. That way I wouldn’t mix up who had which mug. I filled them up with water from the instant hot, and dropped in the teabags.
Now for the hard part.
I took out the vial and stared at the clear liquid. Drugging my mom felt so wrong. Could I go through with this? Just thinking about it made me feel like a terrible person.
Then I reminded myself that as much as I hated it, using the potion was my best option. If my mom didn’t agree to the plan, then I either had to go to England behind her back, or be doomed to die by the next full moon.
The idea that I could die was frightening. Hadn’t I faced enough imminent death by keeping Jeremy from getting us in a deadly car accident last weekend? I never thought that at sixteen I would be worrying about dying. Yet here I was, knowing that because of one selfish act from someone who I once considered my best friend, I might not live to see my seventeenth birthday. The whole situation made me feel helpless and out of control.
I uncapped the vial, and dumped the potion into my mom’s drink.
As much as I told myself that I was doing what I had to, it didn’t make me feel any better.
“What did you get at the mall?” my mom asked as she entered the kitchen.
“I couldn’t find anything,” I said. “It was crowded, and the lines were so long for the dressing rooms and to purchase anything that I didn’t feel like waiting. I’m never going to the mall on Black Friday again.”
“I guess that’s a lesson you have to learn the hard way,” my mom said with a laugh. “It’s why I do my Black Friday shopping online.”
Apparently she was getting some shopping in while claiming to work.
“Yeah,” I agreed. I took a sip of my tea, and then handed my mom her mug.
“This is good,” she said. “What kind of tea did you use?”
“It’s just cinnamon,” I said, feeling guilty about the lie. I hoped the strong flavor of cinnamon would cover up any possible taste of the potion, despite the fact that it was supposed to be tasteless.
“I’m glad you and Chelsea are friends again,” my mom said, taking a seat at the table. “I had a feeling the two of you would work it out.”
I joined her at the table. She’d taken a few sips of tea, so the potion was in her system.
It was now or never.
“When the three of us were at the mall, Drew invited us to spend Christmas with him,” I said nervously. My mom’s mind was supposed to be “relaxing and opening to new possibilities,” but I dreaded she would immediately say no when I brought up the trip.
“Do you mean you, Drew, and Chelsea?” my mom asked suspiciously. I couldn’t blame her for thinking the offer was strange. It would make sense if he invited me, but she knew there was bad history between the three of us.
“It’s a family thing, so he invited our families as well. He figured it would be nice to invite Chelsea and her dad since the two of you are dating.”
“That was thoughtful of him,” my mom said. “Will it be at his house?”
“That’s the thing.” I dreaded the next words that were going to come out of my mouth. “They’re spending Christmas with his grandparents in England.”
My mom nearly choked on her tea. “So you’re saying he invited us to England?”
“Yes.” I tried to remain calm and not worry about her minor freak out. Maybe she needed time to let it soak in. “His grandparents’ house is large enough to host all of us, so we won’t have to stay in a hotel. All we would need are the plane flights.”
She took another sip of tea, and I could tell she was considering it. A spark of hope passed through my chest. She hadn’t said an immediate no, which was what I had feared.
Maybe she would actually go for this plan.
“I do have airline miles set aside that need to be used,” she said.
“So we can go?”
“I’ll check the flights, and if I’m able to use the miles to get free airfare, then we can go. I’ve always wanted to spend Christmas somewhere exotic. It might be a nice change.”
“Wow,” I said, surprised by how easy that was. Not like I should have been surprised—I gave her a big nudge with the potion. “Can you check the flights now?” I wanted to make sure she purchased them before the potion wore off.
“First, why don’t you ask Drew for his flight information so I can try booking the same one?” She didn’t even sound skeptical. If anything, she sounded excited. This was more than I had hoped for.
I took out my cell and texted him.
I’m sitting with my mom right now so I can’t call, but she seems on board with the plan! She wants to know your flight information so we can try to get on the same one.
A minute later, he texted me the information. I relayed it to my mom.
“Come with me to the study and I’ll check the flights,” she said.
I couldn’t believe she was agreeing so easily. Actually I could believe it, since I gave her the potion, but I didn’t really think it would work.
I also wondered if she would have agreed if I hadn’t used it at all. Maybe she would have. I doubted she would have said yes so fast, but I liked to think she wouldn’t have been completely opposed to the idea.
I felt bad that I had to manipulate her with the potion, but at the same time, I was going to ENGLAND! I’d wanted to go to England for years. My fascination with the country probably had to do with how I’d lived a past life there. And now I was finally getting a chance to visit! It was like something out of a dream.
For a moment, I was so excited about going to England that I forgot the reasons behind the trip. If we didn’t go, find the ring, and stop my death in the past, this might be the last vacation I took in my life.
“It looks like my miles work for these flights,” my mom said as she typed the information into the places necessary to get the round trip flights. “And now we’re officially going to England for Christmas vacation!” she said with a final click of the mouse.
She just got the tickets—we’re going to England!
I texted Drew.
“Who are you texting?” she asked.
If there was one question that always annoyed me, it was when my mom asked who I was texting. But I answered anyway, unable to hide my smile when I said Drew’s name. “Just telling him that we’re officially in for the trip,” I explained.
“Any news from Chelsea?” my mom asked. “Tyler doesn’t like flying. I should have asked him before booking the flights … it’s strange I didn’t think of that first.” Her forehead creased, and I could tell she was genuinely confused. Which made me feel guilty, since she definitely would have asked him first if it hadn’t been for the potion in her tea making her do what I asked.
“I’ll ask Chelsea,” I said.
I texted Chelsea to ask about her progress, hoping her response would be positive. If Chelsea couldn’t come, then the plan wouldn’t work. We needed her temporary affinity with magic to accomplish what was necessary.
Her reply arrived less than a minute later.
My dad hates flying, but he’s almost there. Are you definitely going? If you are, that would help him make up his mind.
My mom just got the tickets!
“Chelsea said it seems like her dad is going to say yes,” I told my mom, since she was waiting for me to relay what the text said.
“I don’t understand why you can’t call each other,” she said with a shake of her head. “It’s much faster than texting.”
I laughed, because as many times as I tried to explain texting to my mom, she never got it. I called people if I needed to have a long conversation, but for anything else, texting was more efficient.
But I didn’t say that to my mom, because I’d told her a million times and it never sunk in.
My phone buzzed with another text from Chelsea.
My dad is IN!
“Chelsea and her dad are coming on the trip!” I told my mom. Right away, I texted Drew to let him know.
I couldn’t believe this was coming together so easily.
I’d never traveled internationally before, so I didn’t know what to expect. The plane was huge—much larger than the planes I took when I visited my dad in Pennsylvania. My mom, Chelsea, Chelsea’s dad, and I had seats near each other in coach. Drew and his mom were in first class. The leather seats in first class looked big and comfortable, but I tried not to be jealous. We were all ending up in the same place. Plus, the coach seats had little touch screen televisions, so I could stay entertained through the flight.
We were supposed to sleep since we were traveling East, but I couldn’t fall asleep on planes, so I read the whole way. The lack of sleep would catch up with me tomorrow, but there was no point in uncomfortably trying (and failing) to sleep when I could read instead.
It was morning in England when we arrived. To me, it felt like night should have just started.
I regretted not sleeping on the plane, since I was getting the feeling that the jet lag was going to be rough.
When we got to baggage claim at Heathrow Airport, I saw a middle-aged man in a suit holding a sign that said “Carmichael.” He waved when he spotted Drew and Drew’s mom.
“That’s my grandparents’ driver, Marshall,” Drew told me. “My grandparents are doing last minute preparations for our arrival, so they’ll be meeting us at the house.”
I looked at him in amazement. “Your grandparents have a driver?”
“Yeah.” He squeezed my hand for assurance. I guess he didn’t realize how alien the concept of having a personal driver would seem to me until he saw my reaction. Maybe drivers were commonplace in London and New York City, but in Pembrooke, everyone I knew drove themselves.
Marshall helped us with our luggage, and led us out of the airport to a huge limo.
“And they have a limo?” I asked Drew, keeping my voice quiet. I didn’t want Marshall to overhear me and think I was unsophisticated.
“Yep,” he said. “But they only use it to go to important functions, or to the airport.”
“And to go to other places they use what … their Rolls Royce?” I was only half-joking.
“Close,” Drew said. “They have a Bentley.”
I didn’t know much about Bentleys, but I guessed they were expensive.
“The drive will take about an hour and fifteen minutes,” Marshall told us once he finished loading our luggage into the limo.
The limo was huge, and the wraparound seat provided more than enough room for the six of us. Drew and his mom sat in the forward-facing seat, Chelsea and her dad took the seat facing backward, and my mom and I sat in the longest seat that faced the side. I liked that, because the window was straight ahead, giving me a good view of the scenery.
Everyone made small talk on the way there, but I spaced out of the conversation to admire the view. When we first left the airport the surroundings were urban, although the city had a historical feel to it, since the buildings had been there for centuries. It was incredible thinking about everything that might have happened in those buildings for the hundreds of years that they’ve been there. So many families that have come and gone, so many stories to tell.
The sidewalks were covered in snow, but the grayness of winter couldn’t take away the charmed feeling I got while looking around. I spotted a few of the British red telephone booths that I’d seen in movies, and as we drove farther from the city we passed the cutest houses that looked like they’d been in families for generations. Everything felt classy here—even the taxicabs were black and regal, opposed to the dinky, yellow ones in the United States. Hopefully I would have time later in the trip to sketch some of these beautiful scenes.
The buildings grew farther apart as the drive continued, and I admired the rolling hills of the English countryside. The snow blanketed on the grass and trees made it look like we were in a winter wonderland. Not even the gray sky distracted from the mystical feeling, and goose bumps rose across my arms as I contemplated the years of history held within these enchanting lands.
I couldn’t believe I was here—in England—the place where a past self I was only beginning to remember had lived out the entirety of her life that had been cut off too soon.
Which reminded me that if Drew, Chelsea, and I weren’t successful on our mission, my present life might be cut off soon, too.
With that thought, the sky that had been welcoming only minutes before took on a foreboding quality. I wrapped my arms around myself and sunk into the seat, not wanting to think about the dire consequences that would happen if the task Alistair had set for us turned out to be impossible. I wanted to be optimistic, but it was hard when what we had to do was so extreme.
Finally, Marshall pulled up in front of a huge house that I assumed belonged to Drew’s grandparents. Actually, “house” was barely a fair description. The only proper term I could come up with for it was an estate.
The Tudor-style home was three floors tall, with huge windows on the stone walls and a double-door entrance that looked too heavy for one person alone to open. I knew that Drew came from a wealthy family, but I had no idea his grandparents lived in a place fit for nobility. Along with the house being huge, there were no other houses nearby, giving me the impression that Drew’s grandparents owned most of the surrounding land. I couldn’t imagine how two people could need that much space for themselves.
I wondered if it ever got lonely. That must be why they opened their home for guests, like they were doing for my and Chelsea’s families now. Single lights in each window were the only signs that the house was prepared for the holiday season, and I could make out a giant Christmas tree in one of the larger windows near the door.
This was going to be the most magical Christmas ever.
And hopefully it wouldn’t be my last.
I stepped out of the limo, and Drew held out a hand to help me up.
“What do you think?” he asked. “Is England how you pictured it?”
“This house looks like it’s for nobility!” I blurted, embarrassed after I said it. I didn’t want to sound like a hick from the middle of nowhere in New Hampshire, but I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm.
“My grandparents don’t have noble titles,” Drew said with a laugh.
“I didn’t think so,” I said.
“Because my grandfather was the third son,” Drew continued, “so his eldest brother got the title.”
My mouth must have dropped open, because Drew chuckled and pulled me closer. I hadn’t prepared to meet a noble British family! I looked at what I was wearing—jeans, UGG boots, and a white puffy jacket.
His grandparents were going to think I was totally pedestrian.
“Don’t worry,” Drew said, as if he could read my mind. “They’re going to love you.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Because I love you,” he said, nuzzling his nose into my cheek. “So they have no other choice but to love you as well.”
Despite the freezing air, his words sent warmth shooting through my body.
“Come on,” he said, draping an arm around my shoulders. “Let’s go inside and meet them.”
“Shouldn’t we get our bags first?” I asked. I wanted to go into the warmness of the house, but I didn’t want to leave my bags in the limo. I supposed Marshall might bring them inside, but it seemed rude to assume so.
“You’re a guest here,” Drew said. “Your luggage will be taken care of and brought to your room. Now, do you want to walk inside, or are you going to make me carry you there myself?”
“Let’s go,” I said, despite the temptation of Drew’s offer. I would have loved for him to carry me inside, but it was too soon for Chelsea to see us being so affectionate around each other.
He squeezed my hand, and we walked toward the massive front doors.