In the hours that ensued after they crossed the bridge, Everin didn’t speak once. He walked alongside his companions but kept his eyes on the ground. He could sense their frustration with him, simmering gently in their auras. They both conversed quietly amongst themselves, commenting on a tree that they passed or on the hot midafternoon sun. Eventually, Cora declared that they needed to stop and eat.
They trio stepped off the trail and into a small gap in the trees. Ford dropped his pack on the ground and knelt before it. He pulled out a small loaf of bread and broke it into thirds. He handed a piece to Cora and gave another one to Everin. Everin didn’t meet Ford’s eyes as he accepted the bread. He could still see a somewhat bright red aura around the boy’s frame.
The three sat in awkward silence as they ate. The sound of his chewing was painfully loud in Everin’s ears. As they finished eating, Cora finally broke the silence.
“Everin, I don’t blame you for your choice back at the bridge, but you have to be willing to use your powers. What if we run into the ghosts again?”
Everin felt his throat tighten. He’d just spent the past three hours trying to forget about the fisherman, what he’d done to Cora, and everything else that had happened to him since he’d emerged from the pool.
“Cora, I can’t. I don’t trust myself. Who knows what could happen if something goes wrong again.”
She paused before speaking again – choosing her words carefully. “I know you’re suffering. I don’t need your vision to see that. But you can’t hide from these powers right now. They’re our best chance of safely reaching McCarthy, and they could be useful if we have to beat some answers out of him.”
Everin opened his mouth to respond, but she raised a hand, cutting him off. “I don’t blame you for what happened this morning, nobody does.”
Everin shook his head. “That’s not true.” He pointed at Ford. “He’s still mad at me. I can see it in his aura.”
“I’m not mad,” Ford snapped.
Cora gave him a concerned look. “Ford, you don’t have to be upset. Everything worked out alright.”
Everin’s eyes widened as Ford’s simmering red aura flared brightly at Cora’s words.
“I’m not mad,” he insisted. “I mean, I guess I am mad, but I know everything’s okay. So, I won’t be mad. Okay?”
Green flashes trickled their way into his bristling red aura as he waited for Cora’s response.
It was Everin who spoke up. He swallowed hard and said, “Cora, can I speak with Ford in private for a moment?”
A few wisps of green energy materialized around Cora, reflecting her concern. She gave Everin a puzzled looked, but said, “Okay. I’ll be here.”
Everin gave her a grateful nod. He rose from where he sat and looked expectantly at Ford. Slowly, the boy stood up and followed Everin deeper into the trees. Once they were out of earshot of Cora, Ford stopped.
“What do you want?” He demanded.
Everin tried to put into words what he was sensing.
“I know you’re mad at me, and I want to fix it. Look, I learned my lesson. I’m not going to use my powers again, not if they could hurt you or Cora…”
“No, that’s not it,” Ford interrupted. “You need to be willing to use your powers,” he said.
“What?” Everin frowned. “What are you upset about then?”
“I’m not upset, I just…” Ford paused, and his aura swelled red with frustration. “I don’t know how to explain it.”
“Does it have to do with Cora?” Everin ventured. He winced as he waited for Ford’s response.
The boy’s aura flared with green and red lights. The increase in brightness shocked Everin.
“Well yeah, you hurt her with the lightning,” Ford said. “But it’s okay. It was an accident. That’s not what caused my aura.”
“So it’s not my accident that’s causing it?” Everin asked.
“Look, I don’t know why my aura is red. I wish I could just hide the stupid thing,” Ford moaned. “Talking about feelings is absolutely not my specialty. I’m not even angry, I’m just…frustrated,” he sighed.
“It’s okay,” Everin said. “It’s not my specialty either. Although, I’ve been trying to learn what I can since we left.”
Ford grunted in acknowledgement, so Everin asked his next question.
“Are you frustrated because you’re worried about what Cora thinks about you?”
“What makes you think I’m worried about that?” Ford snapped back immediately. His aura bloomed with green light this time.
Everin shrugged nervously. “Since this morning, you get nervous when you talk to her. It could’ve been happening yesterday, too, but I wasn’t really paying attention to your aura.”
Ford opened his mouth but didn’t say anything, struggling for words.
“It’s okay,” Everin interjected, “if you like her. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Ford was silent for a long time. Everin studied the waves of green energy that ebbed and flowed from his frame. Finally, he sighed.
“I guess there’s no point trying to hide it from someone who can see what you can. I don’t know if I like her, but I guess I feel nervous around Cora sometimes. No, it’s not even that I feel nervous around her. I…I just get this constant fear of screwing up in front of her.” Ford looked up at Everin. “I guess that’s what I’m mad about. When I overreacted and yelled at you, I probably looked like an idiot in front of her. And then getting called out for being mad just now probably disgusted her even more. It’s just…frustrating.”
“I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have mentioned your aura if I knew that was what was causing it,” Everin said.
Ford waved a hand. “No, it’s fine. I don’t think I even really knew why I was mad.”
He paused. “So, is everything okay? I’m not angry at you. Does that mean that you can use your powers again?”
Everin winced. “I’m sorry, Ford. Even if you’re not made at me, I don’t think I should use them again. Ever.”
“Everin, we might need to rely on your powers if we run into more danger. I’m sorry I yelled at you, I really am.” Ford said.
“Ford, I appreciate the apology, but I…” he sighed. “I don’t know if I can do it.”
“What happened this morning was an accident, a fluke. Cora’s forgiven you. I’m not mad at you. Don’t let this one thing hold you back. Please, Everin,” Ford pressed.
Everin shuddered. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, a pained expression crossing his face. When he opened them, he said, “It’s not that easy, Ford. I can’t just make myself forget what I did this morning.”
“I know, but…” Ford began, but Everin continued speaking.
“And this isn’t your fault. You’re not the only reason I can’t use my power.” He swallowed hard. “I haven’t told anyone this, not even Cora, but on the night my parents were killed, McCarthy gave me a chance to save my mother.”
Ford’s eyes widened. His mouth opened in surprise, but he let Everin continue speaking.
“He gave me a knife and challenged me to a fight. He told me that if I could beat him, my mother would live.” Everin sniffed and blinked hard. “I lost. I had a chance, no matter how slim, to save her, and I failed. McCarthy gave me this,” Everin held up his right hand, revealing the white line on his forearm. “And his henchman killed my mother. That’s why I can’t use my powers anymore. My mother is dead, and it’s my fault. I can’t be responsible for the same thing happening to Cora. I just…I can’t.” He looked down and let his shoulders fall, deflated.
Ford embraced Everin. It was awkward and clumsy, but Everin hugged him back.
“I’m sorry, Everin,” Ford whispered.
Everin just nodded. Ford broke their embrace and put his hands on Everin’s shoulders, looking into his eyes.
“I can’t change what happened that night, and I can’t convince you that there was nothing you could do, but I want you to know that I trust you. You have a good heart, and I know that you’ll do anything to protect people you care about, even challenging a murderer in a fight to the death.” Ford gently squeezed Everin’s shoulder. “If the time ever comes where you have to use your powers, I hope you can trust yourself.”
“It’s not that easy…” Everin tried to say.
“I know,” Ford said. He groaned. “Ugh, I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to say this the right way. I know it’s not easy. I just don’t want you or Cora to get hurt because you’re worried about another accident.”
“I don’t either,” Everin said. He cast his eyes down. “But I hurt Cora. I don’t know how I can ever use my powers again.”
Ford took a deep breath. He paced up and down as he figured out what he wanted to say.
“You don’t have to promise me that you’ll use your powers, but just promise me that you’ll have a little more faith in yourself. Can you do that?”
Slowly, Everin nodded. “I…I’ll try.”
“That’s all anyone can ask of you,” Ford said. He patted Everin on the arm. “Let’s go back to Cora before she gets too worried.”
Everin turned to go, but he felt Ford grab his arm.
“Sorry, one more thing. Could you not mention to Cora what we talked about? I don’t know if I’m ready for the shame of her finding all that out about me just yet,” Ford said.
Everin grinned weakly. “Don’t worry. I won’t say anything. But she is going to want to know what we talked about.”
Ford sighed. “I know. I’ll skip over the details or tell her some of it or…” he groaned in frustration. “I don’t know. I’ll deal with that later.”
Everin shook his head, genuinely smirking now. “Whatever you say.”
Ford led Everin back to where Cora was waiting. She raised a curious eyebrow at them as they reappeared from within the trees. Ford gave her a smile, although Everin could see blazing green light materialize around his frame when he saw the girl.
“Everin and I just had a nice chat. He said he’ll work on accepting the idea of using his powers if it means keeping us safe.”
Cora looked at Everin, and he nodded in agreement. He could tell that she was dying to know more, but she didn’t probe. “Okay. Are you both ready to hit the road again?”
“Yeah, let’s get moving,” Everin replied.
And so, the walking continued. Sandaled feet plodding along the hard trail of dirt and dead leaves. Everin walked forward in his usual trancelike state, mulling over his conversation with Ford and what it might mean if he Cora knew that he liked her. He tried to study Cora’s aura to see if she felt the same kind of nerves when talking to Ford, but her anxiety about the private conversation that just transpired hid any small fluctuations in her green aura. His thoughts were disrupted when he felt a tap at his shoulder.
“Hey, Everin. You see that?” Ford asked.
Everin’s eyes tracked to where the older boy way pointing. There was a streak of yellow growing on the sides of one of the tree trunks.
“Mold?” He asked.
Ford nodded earnestly. “That’s Churchill’s mold,” he said.
“Churchill? Like the old god?” Cora asked.
“Yeah. You’ve heard the story about Churchill’s mold, right?” Ford looked between the two of them.
A wry smile crossed Everin’s mouth. “We didn’t all grow up reading those books on the old gods every day.”
Ford let out a sigh of frustration, but he was smiling. “Churchill helped the old gods win the war against the titans back in the ancient age. You guys know at least that much, don’t you?”
Cora scratched her head in mock confusion. “He sounds familiar…”
Ford let out a mock groan. “Basically, he helped lead the last fight against the titans. When Hitler, the titan king, finally fell, they were wiped from the earth, ushering in the era of the old gods, and that’s how Churchill became known as the god of courage and resilience.”
“And the god of mold?” Everin asked.
Cora couldn’t stop herself from laughing. Ford rolled his eyes.
“There’s a legend that this mold grows in places he’d visited. It’s just a dumb folk myth, but it says that if you see Churchill’s moss, it’s a sign that you’re due for some good luck.”
“It’s about time,” Everin said. “We could all use some good fortune.”
Ford shrugged. “Guess we’ll have to wait and see if the legends are true.”
Cora touched Ford on the arm. Everin saw flickers of nervous green light jump around his frame at the contact, but he didn’t say anything.
“I’m counting on it now, Ford. We better get some luck or I’m blaming you for getting our hopes up.” She grinned at him.
Everin smiled at Cora’s words and Ford’s private emotional reaction.
“Hey, remember I said it’s just a legend,” Ford protested.
“I don’t know, you seemed pretty excited about finding that moss,” Everin chimed in.
Ford raised his hands in mock defeat.
“This is what I get for trying to share some history,” he moaned.
Cora took her hand off his arm, and the intensity of the green aura around Ford died down several degrees. Unaware, she turned to face Everin and smiled. He smiled back – a genuine smile that was long overdue.
Then, he heard the shouts.
“Do you hear that?” he asked.
Cora turned her head, frowning.
“It sounds like some kind of commotion down the trail.”
A pack of two families traveling ahead of them had also stopping moving in response to the yells and cheers that came from further ahead. Everin peered as far down the dirt path as he could. It wasn’t until a flicker of movement above the trees made him look up. By the time Everin saw Kyzella, she was almost directly above him.
Next chapter: https://sorrowandlove.home.blog/chapter-15-everin/