"I can see my house from up here!" a small voice exclaimed from the top of a very tall magnolia tree.
"You can see the house from down here too. We're in the backyard," another voice commented from the bottom of said tree. The little girl who the voice belonged to looked like a little angel in her immaculate white dress, with her elfin face, jade eyes, and un-mussed chestnut hair. To top it all off, she was only about kindergarten age and very, very frail-looking.
"Spoilsport," the voice from the top of the tree huffed. "You know, if you weren't so stuck-up, you might have fun. But, nooooo, Bartleby forbid mommy's little angel play like a normal kid."
"Haley!" the little girl gasped. "Language!"
"You sound like Mom," the voice (Haley) scoffed, closer now, perhaps toward the middle of the tree.
"You should listen to her," the girl cautioned.
There was a shriek and a heap of gray cloth fell from the magnolia tree. "Ow," it said.
"…like when she says to not climb trees when it's getting dark," the girl finished.
The heap of gray cloth uncurled into what was obviously a girl not too much older than the one in the white dress, maybe by one or two years, who wore a gray dress. Haley had a mop of messy black hair, amber eyes, and an oval face. She had a more sturdy-looking build than the other girl.
"My dear sister," Haley said, getting up and dusting herself off, "one day you will learn."
"Learn what?" the younger girl asked.
"Exactly," Haley responded, not really answering the question at all.
"Saffron, Haley!" a musical-sounding voice called.
Both girls dashed through the screen door in the back of their light stone cottage. The door slammed behind them as they entered the kitchen directly inside, where a woman waited.
"Girls, how many times have I told you notto let that door slam?" the woman asked. She just like an older version of the younger of the two girls, aside from wearing wire-framed glasses, having curlier hair, and wearing house clothes (aka. green, snowflake-print pajamas) at the moment. She always said they were more comfortable than her work clothes. No one could argue with that.
"Too many," Haley mumbled.
"Around 250," the younger girl (Saffron) guessed.
The woman smiled. "Just don't do it again, okay?"
"Yes, ma'am," Saffron assented.
"Okay, Mom," Haley said hurriedly.
"Your plates are on the table," the girls' mom told them.
Haley stampeded into the dining room, while Saffron calmly trotted. Both sat down rather sloppily in the end, and it was actually quite an amusing sight. It was even more amusing if you considered that the two were sisters.
Haley stared at the bowl on her placemat with some mixture of dismay and curiosity. "What isthat?" she asked after a moment. Her mom looked thoroughly offended.
"It's vegetarian chili," she answered.
"No, it's slop," Haley corrected.
"Okay then," the girls' mother said exasperatedly, "you can call it slop. Just eat your dinner."
"Mommy," Saffron cut in, "where's Daddy?"
"He had some make-up tests to give after school," her mother said somewhat more patiently. "He should be home any minute."
"You said that an hour ago," Saffron pointed out, taking a bite of her chili.
"I know I did, and it's starting to worry me," her mom said, "Last time he was this late… let's just say it involved dragons."
"Dragons?" Haley asked, suddenly interested.
"Yes, dragons," her mom confirmed, "Now eat."
"Eat dragons?" Haley asked, mortified. Saffron smiled.
"Your dinner," their mom said sternly. "Now."
"I'm full," Haley whined.
"But last time you ate was lunch," Saffron said, slightly confused. Haley kicked her under the table. "Mommy, she kicked me!"
"I did not!" Haley protested.
"You did too!" Saffron argued.
"Stop it!" their mom yelled. "Both of you are going straight to bed after dinner!"
The girls hurriedly stuffed their chili in their mouths, knowing that it wasn't wise to take too long if
their mother's temper was short. Saffron and Haley had wolfed down their dinners in less than five minutes and were in bed in less than ten.
Saffron was asleep as soon as she hit her mattress, a trick Haley had not (and indeed never would) master. Unfortunately for the elder sister, it would be several hours before she would even start to feel tired.
Just as Haley was drifting off to sleep, she felt something poke her side, and poke her side, and poke her side, and poke her side, and poke her side.
"Haley-" Saffron began.
"You know that thing you just did?" Haley growled, "Don't do that. Ever again."
"Haley," Saffron said, ignoring her sister, "I'm scared."
Haley sighed. "What is it this time?"
"I had The Dream again," Saffron said pitifully, clutching her teddy bear tightly. Haley knew immediately what her little sister was talking about. Saffron had been having that one recurring dream for the past year. It scared the younger girl so much that she never told anyone what it was about or who was involved, not even her mother.
"Alright, you can sleep in here tonight," Haley said resignedly, knowing that both her sister and her conscience would plague her for a long time if she didn't say those words. Haley scooted closer to the wall on her twin-size bed (which should honestly be called an "only-child-size bed" because there is no way twins would ever fit comfortably on one) to make room for her little sister.
"Goodnight, Haley," Saffron said sweetly.
"Yeah, yeah, just go to sleep."
The next morning, Haley awoke to the unfamiliar sound of three adults arguing in the living room. It wasn't one adult ranting and the other reasoning, or even two adults arguing and one trying to break it up, but three adults in an all-out verbal war against each other. Saffron, being a heavy sleeper, was undisturbed. As the shouting quieted somewhat, Haley's curiosity got the best of her and she crept to the living room doorway to investigate. Careful to stay hidden by the door, she leaned in until her ear was touching the wood.
"-need to think! You can't go running off like that, Malistaire!" a man's voice yelled. He had a painfully obvious Marleybonian accent.
"That's easy for you to say," another man's voice (Malistaire) replied. "You couldn't take a real risk if you wanted to." Like the first man, he also had a Marleybonian accent.
"Malistaire, that's enough!" Haley's mother said sternly over the ruckus. "Cyrus, you too. This is none of your concern."
The two men ignored her.
"Maybe if you were a stronger wizard, we wouldn't have gotten into that situation in the first place," Malistaire said accusingly. "Face it, brother; you belong in the library, not on the battlefield."
"Malistaire…" Haley's mother warned.
"You're nothing, Cyrus, just a tag-along to more talented wizards," Malistaire said.
If a pen had been dropped at that moment, Haley -and everyone in the living room- would have heard it.
"Goodbye, Sylvia," Cyrus said as the shock wore off, then he left with out another word. The fact that he didn't address his brother showed just how upset he was. Haley, being Haley, decided to do a bit of snooping, so she went out of the back door and followed Cyrus to the Myth tower.
Through the door, she heard his end of a phone conversation that would change everything for the worse.
"Yes," he said, then, somewhat more dryly after a short pause, he added so quietly that Haley had to strain to hear it, "I know where Sylvia and Malistaire Drake are."
There was another pause, somewhat longer than the first.
"No. They live at house number four in the Commons in Wizard City. They teach at Ravenwood." Another short pause. "Of course I do, Mori."
Then came the click of a phone being hung up.
Haley had no idea who "Mori" was, but she intended to find out, just as Sherlock Holmes always intended to solve a case once he got hold of it. Though, Haley's particular case would require much more eavesdropping and illegal activities than any of Sherlock Holmes's ever did. Let me assure you that as Haley stood there in her black Skullcrusher Mountain t-shirt and grey flannel pajama pants, with the sun barely rising behind her and a mother back home who had no doubt noticed her daughter's absence, she was in for much more adventure and emotional trauma than I dare to write just yet.
And so it was that the seven-year-old eavesdropper fancied herself a spy and lurked back through Ravenwood and the Commons only to find her mother waiting at the door with her hands on her hips, tapping her white bunny slipper clad foot.
"Where were you off to?" Sylvia (her mom, if you recall) demanded.
"I…um… I was… um…" Haley stuttered, for once at a loss for words.
"I thought I made it clear last time that there was to be no sneaking out of the house," Sylvia said.
"I… I found a rock?" Haley said hopefully, holding out a stone she had picked up on her way back home. Sylvia ignored her daughter and grabbed the girl's arm, hauling her back inside to the kitchen. Sylvia got out the bottle of dish detergent.
"Open your mouth," she told Haley. The girl vehemently shook her head.
"Haley…" Sylvia warned, but Haley didn't want dish soap in her mouth. "I'll give you to the count of three, and then you get a spanking and the soap."
Haley's eyes widened. Dish soap was second only to a spanking.
Haley debated with herself. She really didn't want that soap on her tongue. It had a bad taste that just didn't go away. On the other hand, she also didn't want a sore rear end.
The girl decided it wasn't worth it and opened her mouth wide. Sylvia squirted a drop of soap on her daughter's tongue.
"That wasn't so hard, was it?" the woman asked.
"Whoever put the word 'apple' on the label should be frost beetle-d," Haley told her mother. Sylvia was not amused.
"So are you going to sneak out again?" she asked.
"Not 'till I have to," Haley answered.
Sylvia seemed satisfied with the answer and let go of Haley's arm. "Your breakfast is on the table."
Haley walked over to her typical seat, sat down grumpily, and stared ruefully at her scrambled eggs and hash browns. She wasn't a big fan of mixing things with the taste of dish detergent. Soap tasted bad enough by itself.
Saffron, meanwhile, was gazing out of the window at something. "What's that?" she asked.
Haley turned her head to see what her sister was staring at. "It's a bee," she deadpanned, poking her scrambled eggs disdainfully.
"Don't bees sting?" Saffron asked fearfully.
"Not those," Haley said, grinning. "They're meat bees. They don't want to sting you, just eat your flesh."
"Haley, don't scare your sister," Sylvia scolded, then she said somewhat more consolingly, "Saffron, those are just regular bees, don't worry. They aren't going to sting you unless you go out there and bother them. Did you know that bees die after they sting something?"
Saffron shook her head.
"Their stinger is attached to their body," Sylvia explained as she sat down for breakfast. Haley knew she'd always wanted to be a science teacher, but once she came to Wizard City, she knew she would never be able to take some muggle science seriously again.
Haley looked bored, and, unable to think of anything else to do, shoveled hash browns into her mouth. And immediately regretted it. Blegh.
"Did you have to give me the soap right before breakfast?" she asked.
Sylvia sighed. "You can have breakfast later."
Haley grinned. "Can I go play with Malorn?"
"No," Sylvia said. "He has class today, remember? Just like I have work."
Haley frowned. Sylvia checked her watch.
"Oh, I'm running late," she noted. She snapped her fingers and was suddenly in emerald green slacks, a suit jacket of the same color, a white button down, and brown Wizard-City style boots. "Do you girls think you can get to Gloria's alone today?" she asked.
"Yes ma'am," Saffron answered.
"Yes," Haley said.
"Alright," Sylvia said and kissed each of her daughters on the cheek. "I'll see you after work."
"Bye, Mommy!" Saffron smiled.
Sylvia smiled back.
"Be good, alright? Haley, I don't want to hear about any more thunderstorms in Gloria's house."
"It was just that one time…" Haley said.
"Be good," Sylvia told her.
"Okay," Haley surrendered.
"Bye, girls," Sylvia said, giving a half smile.