"Lewis! Time for dinner!"
I set the plates down on the table, and my son came stumbling out of his room, swatting at his shirt. It was, as usual, on fire. Thirteen, and already an enthusiastic Fire Warden.
Joy for me.
Lewis succeeded in putting out the fire, and walked over to sit down at the table. He looked at the vegetables distastefully, but shovelled them on to his plate anyway.
I sat down as well, and his blue eyes sought mine. "Hey, Mum," he said, "Where's Dad?"
Just as I opened my mouth to reply, David's disembodied voice said, "Right here," and in less than a heartbeat, he materialised into his human form. His copper eyes were amused as he ruffled Lewis's hair affectionately. "Hey, kid," he said.
Lewis swept messy dark hair away from his face and grinned at his father. "Hey, Dad."
David pulled out a chair and joined us at the table. "So how was school?" he asked Lewis.
Lewis contemplated this. "It was okay," he said, "But I can't wait until Warden U. I bet it would be so much more exciting than normal school."
This seemed like a normal enough dinner, but we all had no idea this was the dinner that was going to be a major turning point in Lewis's life.
David nodded serenely. "So what do you want to do this weekend?"
"I dunno," Lewis shrugged, "Maybe go play basketball or something?"
David turned his glowing eyes towards me. "I was thinking we should go visit Imara, since we haven't in a while."
Lewis was not supposed to know about Imara. He was completely oblivious to her existence, and if he ever suspected we were keeping secrets from him, he never let it show. It seemed rather selfish and over-protective, but we were doing this to keep him safe. For all we knew, the Djinn could go on a mad rampage tomorrow and he would be stuck in the middle of it, just because they knew about him. Heck, that was what happened to me. I didn't want my son to go through the same thing.
David seemed to have changed his mind.
"Mum, who's Imara?" Lewis asked.
I pretended not to hear him and kept my eyes locked on David's. I narrowed my eyes, clearly saying, what did you do that for? David kept looking at me.
He's not a kid anymore, Jo, David's whisper echoed through the aetheric connection between us; he does have the right to know about… everything.
I stared at him in disbelief. I was trying to protect our kid here. I glared at him.
"Mum?" Lewis was still saying, "Who's Imara?"
David raised his eyebrows. That evil, conniving little…
I took in a deep breath. "No one," I said to Lewis, giving him a look.
David raised just one eyebrow this time. Tell him, he whispered through the aetheric.
I will, I said in response, just not yet.
Lewis, not knowing of this silent communication, just gave us a weird look. "O… kay then," he said, and went back to stuffing food in his mouth.
Fine, David said, I'll tell him myself.
Before I could stop him, David said, "Hey, Lewis? You were asking about Imara. She's your sister."
I sent a frustrated glare in David's direction. He didn't seem to notice, or at least didn't let it show that he noticed. Lewis, on the other hand…
"My sister?" he echoed in disbelief. "I have a sister?"
"Yes, you—" I began, but Lewis cut me off.
"How come you never told me?"
"She's an Oracle, Lewis," said David, very unhelpfully.
"So?" Lewis turned his accusatory glare on David.
"We wanted to keep you safe, Lewis. Do you have any idea how much trouble you could get in if you knew about her? That you could suddenly become a huge target for the Djinn if they wanted to hurt us?" I said.
Lewis looked back at me, jaw set in a firm line. "Screw you, Mum," he said, teeth gritted, "I'm not some little kid anymore. I can protect myself." And with that, he turned and stalked off into his room, his food untouched and going cold on his plate.
"Lewis Kevin Prince, you get back here this instance!" I yelled, but I knew it was of no use.
I covered my face with my hands. How did we get into this mess?
Oh right, yeah. The start of this was sitting right in front of me.
I looked up at David. "Why did you tell him?"
"For the exact same reasons that he said. He's growing up. He can protect himself. He does have the right to know these things," David said. "And no more secrets," he added.
I let out a growl of frustration, and David walked over to stand behind me, putting his arms around my shoulders. "What are we going to do, David?" I whispered.
"Go talk to him," David said.
"No. He hates me right now."
"I'm being serious, Jo," he said firmly. I looked up at him, and he certainly looked serious enough, copper eyes burning.
"What if he doesn't listen to me?"
David walked around to face me, and gave me a peck on the lips. "Fides mihi," he whispered, and misted away.
Well then. That was helpful. Not.
"Lewis!" I yelled, banging on his door. "Open the door!"
"No! Go away!" he yelled.
I could've just opened the door Fire Warden style, but he was also a Fire Warden, and his powers could cancel mine out, meaning the door would never open if he didn't want it to.
"Just open it, for God's sake!" I yelled.
I groaned. David had evidently decided to stay out of the way of Lewis's temper, not returning after he left me at the dinner table, which meant that he thought that it was my sole responsibility to deal with this problem, which was rather unfair.
But it is your fault; after all, a little voice that sounded suspiciously like David whispered at the back of my head, you were the one who decided to keep this from him. He doesn't deserve to have secrets kept from him.
I told it/him to shut up and went to resume my banging.
As I lifted my hand to assault the door, someone caught my wrist. I followed the line of his arm to look into the familiar face.
"Hey, Lewis," I smiled weakly.
"Hey," he said. Lewis looked and acted the same, even after being upgraded to Djinn status. I guess that was just who he was. Lewis was Lewis, and whatever situation you put him in, he remained unchanged.
"Maybe you should try changing your tactics," he whispered, and tapped on the door. "Hey, little man."
The door creaked open. "Uncle Lewis?" my son said, peeking out through the small space. He saw me and his expression hardened, and he shut the door again. "No. She's still there. I don't want to talk to her. Go away."
Ouch, that hurt. Lewis shrugged, and vanished.
What? He was leaving me too?
I felt suddenly, irrationally angry at Lewis for giving up on me, but then I realised I could hear whispering behind the door, and felt stupid. Of course Lewis was going to talk to Lewis. He just had a more convenient way of getting in than I did.
I waited, tapping my foot impatiently, and then I heard the door unlocking and Lewis was beside me again.
"I managed to calm him down a bit," he said. "He's willing to talk to you. For now."
"Thanks, Lewis," I said, and gave him a hug. He looked surprised, then smiled and misted away.
I carefully opened the door. The light spilled in to reveal Lewis, sitting rigidly on his bed with a guarded expression on his face.
"Hi, Lewis," I said. He didn't respond.
"I'm sorry," I whispered, more gently, and he turned towards me.
"Whatever," he said, in a way that implied he didn't forgive me.
"I just wanted to protect you, honey," I said.
Lewis looked down. "Exactly. That's what the worst part of it is," he said, "I'm not a little kid who needs to be protected from the world anymore. I'm a Warden, like you, Mum. I can face the world by myself."
I looked at him. Properly, for the first time in years. The little boy with the chubby cheeks and the skinny limbs that I knew so well was gone and in his place was a tall, gawky teenager, slowly growing into his figure and with a determination in his eyes that had never been there before.
He was growing up. The thought made me happy and sad at the same time.
I took a deep breath. "Would it make you feel better if I promised you that there will be no more secrets from now on?" I asked.
"Maybe," he said.
"And that I could take you to see Imara to prove it?"
Lewis looked at me hopefully.
"Fine," I breathed, "I promise that there will be no more secrets from now on, and that I will take you to see Imara, first thing in the morning tomorrow."
Lewis smiled, and said, "Thanks, Mum."
I smiled back, and got up to walk out of the room. I opened the door, and David was standing there.
"So how did it go?" he raised his eyebrows.
"As if you don't know," I grinned. "Pack our bags. We're flying to Sedona tomorrow afternoon."
David, Lewis and I entered the airport the next day, bags packed to spend time in Sedona for the weekend, with a flight to board thanks to late night organisation with the Wardens flight system on my part.
I looked around the people holding up signs for private flights, and spotted a grinning Captain John Montague holding up a sign saying "Joanne Baldwin" with the stylised sun symbol of the Wardens underneath.
I approached him, and we shook hands.
"Miss Baldwin, or shall I say, Mrs Prince," he smiled, and nodded at David, "How long has it been?"
"Oh, too long," I smiled back.
"And Lewis, I've heard so much about you," Captain Montague said, and gave Lewis a pat on the back. "Well, we should get going now. After you."
We walked to the private jet area that I remembered from so many years ago and boarded the Wardens' plane.
As we strapped ourselves in, in the middle land, with Lewis in the centre and me and David on either side, I squeezed Lewis's hand, leaned over, and whispered, "It's going to be a bumpy ride."
Four hours later, we got off the plane and left the airport. My Mustang was already parked in the parking lot, and we all got in, with me at the steering wheel. Lewis wanted to sit in the passenger seat. David let him.
I drove out of the parking lot, and began the short drive from Sedona Airport to the chapel where Imara resided. I let the Mustang fly, feeling the freedom and space of Sedona. Through my wildly blowing hair, I saw Lewis staring out of the side window, looking slightly nervous.
"How are you feeling?" I yelled at him over the wind.
"Okay, I guess," Lewis said, but I could hear the anxiety in his voice. I didn't blame him.
We arrived at the chapel, and I pulled the car into a parking space. "This is it, Lewis," I whispered to him. "The moment of truth."
"I get it," Lewis said, looking harassed, his dark hair tousled from the plane ride.
I opened my door, got out, and looked up at the stairs to the chapel. It seemed so long since I had last climbed them, when the Earth was coming awake and we were doing all that we could to prevent it. When Imara opened up herself to the Earth. When Lewis kissed her, got himself killed and reborn as Djinn.
So many major moments, both good and bad, in my life had happened at this chapel.
It was just going to be the first of Lewis's.
We began the long and arduous climb to the top of the chapel, me with my hand in David's and Lewis leading the way.
By the time we got to the top of the chapel, we were all breathless and sweaty (except David, of course), and the sun was setting, bathing the chapel in glorious shades of maroon and orange. I suppose we all should have stopped to admire it, but nothing was more important than what Lewis was going to do at the moment.
I nudged him towards the door of the chapel, and bent down to say in his ear, "Go in alone. It's your chance."
He looked back at me, and I saw both fear and courage in his eyes. Then he nodded, walked to the chapel door, opened it, and walked in. The door swung closed behind him.
I hugged David. "Look at him," I whispered.
I felt rather than saw David smile. "I know," he whispered back.
After what seemed like eternity, the door to the chapel swung open again. At the far end, Imara and Lewis were sitting together on a bench, Imara with her arm around Lewis, both of them silhouetted against the large window.
David and I walked down the aisle, hand in hand, to stand behind them.
Imara turned around to face us. "Hey, Mum," she smiled, her golden eyes shining, "Hey, Dad."
We both smiled back at her, and she turned around.
We all stopped to admire the beautiful sunset, all together, David, Lewis, Imara and I. One family, together, just this once.