We all lived with our mother until Serosity turned eighteen. On her birthday, we began to accept what we were destined for. I honestly don’t think any of us believed Mother at first. We all knew we had a special relationship with the elements, but hearing you held some power over the whole of everything inside yourself was overwhelming, to say the least.
Mother sat us down and repeated, for close to the millionth time, the story of her journey. Each of us took turns rolling our eyes, sighing deeply, and crossing our arms. She was unswayed by our disbelief and boredom. We were not bored after she informed us we would all be moving to new homes. (Still real skeptical though.)
Looking back, I remember the suggestion of having our poor mother committed for a psych evaluation being thrown into the conversation at least once. That didn’t go over well. In fact, after we calmed her down and she stopped throwing books at us, we learned what she was ranting and raving about.
When the four of us accidentally touched while we reached out to calm our mother, the room was washed in a clear, blinding white light. When we broke our connection, mostly to cover our eyes, a wave ripped through the room and we all landed on our asses.
Only after helping us to our feet did our mother say the words we now did our best to live by.
“Now that your sister has come of age, everything has changed. You cannot touch or even live near each other. Your combined force and close proximity could throw the whole universe off. The only time you can be close, and you must be close, is every five years when you return here and complete the rituals.”
Just to ensure we were clear on her instructions, she led us to the porch and showed us the damage that had resulted from our brief contact. Not only was the room in shambles, most of the trees were down in our yard, and the river had jumped its banks. On top of all that, there was an old abandoned barn burning in the distance.
Our poor little town couldn’t take that kind of damage. With us, the population was one hundred eighty people. My sisters and I all hung our heads and began to cry. We were experiencing varying amounts of remorse but if nothing else, we now clearly understood what we were capable of.
Mother spoke again as we went out of our way now to stay away from each other. “No one was hurt this time. But you will all grow stronger with each passing year. I am so very proud of you. You are the keepers of the Earth, and I think it is in wonderfully capable hands. I am sorry you will no longer be close.”
We might have been close when we were younger, but nothing like other sisters. The only thing we truly had in common was our mother. The older we got, the more our elements called to us, and the result was having even less reason to connect with one another. So we weren’t having as much trouble leaving each other as we were frightened of being thrown into the unknown. But we four had to live where it had been predestined.
Sphery lived in Barrow, Alaska. I couldn’t have stood the cold, but she seemed to enjoy it, after initially being horrified when Mother had informed her of her new home.
I lived in Key West, Florida. It was a beautiful place with lovely weather, if you didn’t count the hurricanes. But when one of your sisters held some sway over the ocean, your block usually miraculously remained unscathed. Over the years, I had begged Serosity to leave Florida alone altogether but her reply to my plea was always the same: “You should be happy I was looking out for you.”
Sky took up residence in Lubeck, Maine. She protested at first because she didn’t know anyone. Once her artwork went on display at a tiny gallery near there, though, she stopped complaining. It was still too cold for my blood.
Serosity’s home was Oahu, Hawaii. Because, of course, it was. I mean, where else would she live? She always got the best of everything. She loved her location but she got bored easily and when she did, she managed to keep the rest of us on our toes.
“Nope! I’m not going. And there is nothing you can say that will make me change my mind.”
“Well, I disagree. Serosity kinda kidnapped a pretty famous actor to bring, so I’m pretty sure we’re going to need you. That, and you really want to meet him.”
I’d been expecting my sisters to give me grief because I didn’t want to go, but hadn’t anticipated the lengths they would go to ensure my attendance.
“Well, shit. How am I gonna top that? I didn’t want to come because I don’t have a date, and now you tell me this. Which one is Sphery planning on bringing?”
The reason I had given my sisters for skipping our reunion was nowhere near the truth of the matter. I’d informed all of them when we were saying our goodbyes almost five years earlier that I would not be returning. I knew my sisters weren’t happy about my plan, but I hadn’t imagined they would create a scenario that would make it impossible for me to skip.
Well, they had.
I wondered if I hadn’t given them enough credit, but quickly dismissed the thought. They had just gotten lucky because Serosity was being, well, Serosity.
I was sure I had been the last to receive the news about my baby sister’s date. I was also aware of the ripple effect it would cause. Serosity’s actions had made it unbearable for my oldest sister not to try to one-up her. All I could do was hope she would pick from her stable of zombies instead of creating a new one.
Our reunions were always stressful for me and I, for one, did not want to have to chastise two sisters. It was second nature to attempt to explain to Serosity just what she had done wrong but Sphery was the oldest and unquestionably the strongest. Picking on her was done at one’s own risk; even when she deserved it.
“I said, which one is she planning on bringing?”
“Probably the sheik. Don’t feel bad, sis. I don’t have a date yet either. So, say you will come. We are really going to need you.”
“For shit’s sake! All right, but this is the last time. You hear me? Never again,” I relented. But not without making sure she understood I was not changing my plans, just delaying them.
“I can always count on you. See you next month. Love you.” Skye spoke quick and fast once she got her way.
I knew she was already informing my other sisters. They might have found a way to force me into attendance once again, but I’d meant what I’d said. I wasn’t going to be at our family meeting the next time. Nothing could make me go the next summit. No matter what they got themselves into. They were on their own after the next reunion.
My youngest sister had most probably taken whomever she had because it would ensure I showed up. Serosity had a twisted sense of right and wrong, along with being a touch selfish.
I put the phone face down on my desk, turned my headphones on, and returned to writing. I had a deadline, whether I was having family issues or not. I thanked the Gods I only had to deal with my siblings once every five years.
My family was by no means normal. (In case you didn’t figure that out already.) The older I grew, the purer that statement became.
My mother was, let’s call her, a little drifty. She had her palm read when she was young and after the experience, she was never the same. The carefree girl with big dreams was gone and replaced with a woman determined to live out a prophesied life.
The gypsy palm reader was most definitely a little on the deranged side, but Mother followed his detailed instructions to the letter. Aside from being guided by someone who was touched in the head, she managed to birth four gifted daughters with the help of four vastly different men. Men we daughters only knew through our mother’s descriptions.
The four daughters were:
Sphery, the oldest. And I never let her forget that. She was tall and full-figured. Her hair was straight and long. So long, it dragged the ground when she walked. Sphery said her hair connected her with the dirt. My oldest sister could manipulate the Earth. She was also a necromancer. When she was young and impetuous, she went through a phase that resulted in what the rest of us now called her stable.
Sphery raised four men from their slumber because she saw them somewhere when they were alive and thought they were handsome. She soon learned she wasn’t the only one who liked the way they looked. Her zombies spent more time in front of the mirror than interacting with her. We all begged her to stop, but she didn’t listen. The next thing we knew, she had a new acquisition. A matinee star from silent films. He was very easy to look at. When he passed over, the women of the world mourned. Even with millions of women wanting him, he was the most likable of all her men.
Her zombies looked like beautiful normal men, until they were hungry. Then they reverted to their natural appearance, which was gross. It wasn’t something I needed to see again.
I questioned Sphery about their diet many times. My query always received a smile, but never an answer. I didn’t think my oldest sister was going around killing people to feed her technically dead harem, but then, we only reunited once every five years, so I didn’t know her that well.
I was born next. My name is Seraphina. I am the tallest sister at six-foot-one in bare feet. I’m thinnish, with big boobs and red hair. I was born with the ability to manipulate fire. (Just for the record, not as fun as it sounds.) For most of my life I wasn’t real thrilled with my power, but as I got older and stopped burning everything I touched when I was the slightest bit emotional, I learned that, in rare cases, it could come in handy. For the most part, it was troublesome, but I never took the time to work with my gift like my sisters did.
When I made the decision to break from my siblings forever, I embraced the change by beginning a new phase of my life.
I had always enjoyed writing but was terrified to allow anyone to read anything I wrote. When I met Mavis, everything shifted. She convinced me my writing was readable. I’d had two books published in the last year and was working on my third.
I was also a small business owner. My house sat atop of a bakery. I had plenty of money in the bank, so the business remained closed for years. Not long after making my decision to separate from my sisters, I decided to open the bakery. The first thing I did was hire Mavis to run the shop. Interacting with normal people had its drawbacks, but I felt it was time I attempted to have and keep a friend.
Overall, my life was pretty good. I didn’t need for anything, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t have used a man. My last relationship had ended badly three years earlier. I’d told him over and over to not walk in unannounced when I was working. He was a really great guy with awesome abs, but he no longer had any memory of me.
Rule number one in Gullveig sistery: Nobody talks about witchery.
The next year, Skye was born. She was probably the most agreeable of all my sisters, but she had trouble staying focused on anything for any length of time. She was of average height and build. Her golden blonde hair was always worn in two braids. Skye manipulated the air. Wherever she went, a slight breeze accompanied her. When she wasn’t being one of the Gullveig sisters, she was an award-winning artist. Her sculptures were a true thing of beauty.
The last time we were all together, she had been with someone named Greg. But from the way it sounded, that wasn’t still happening. She did have a way of blowing through relationships.
The baby, and definitely the biggest pain in the ass, was Serosity. She was gorgeous, and she knew it. She had a petite frame and her blue-black hair fell in perfectly formed spirals down the middle of her back. Her eyes were the same shade of blue as the Caribbean Sea. She manipulated the water. Besides being self-centered, she wasn’t very smart.
The man she was (probably) holding against his will had most likely been acting in a movie that had to do with the ocean or a river or even a puddle.
Just thinking about my baby sister made me so angry that I actually considered not worrying about my word count for the day. It was a foreign thought, but I’d just started a new book and didn’t have too much invested in it yet. So I pushed my chair back and shook my head.
The nearer our homecoming was, the harder it was to keep my siblings from my thoughts. It was also more difficult to keep my emotions in check. It had been five years since I made my decision and I still hadn’t given much thought to how I could expel my excess power. In truth, I hadn’t realized how close our meeting was until my sister called. Plain fact; my life went so much better when they stayed where they belonged.
Although we were all initially terrified by being, as Serosity put it in typically melodramatic fashion, “banished to the four corners of the earth,” my lovely sisters seemed to adjust better than me. They quickly found ways of occupying their time and even managed to make money.
Instead of applying myself to something new, I chose instead to work at the local fire department for years. It barely paid the bills, but it was fun and easy. And being someone who put fires out was my kind of ironic. Until the people I worked with informed me, that although I was holding up extremely well for a woman who had to be in her sixties, my age was quickly becoming a liability. They gently told me I could either retire or sit behind a desk. That was the first time I was forced to ask my sisters for help. With their help, the whole town forgot about me. I was a new resident of the town I had lived in for thirty years. That was also the first time I lost someone I loved. Our relationship was my memory alone. Most of my concurring relationships were much the same, hot and fast-burning.
I was tired of those and wanted more, but wasn’t exactly crazy about mingling with my own kind. Most naturals were solitary by nature. And all the males were scared shitless of us. With normal men, at least we weren’t feared. Until one of them saw too much. Then they did fear us, until we erased our existence from their minds. In a nutshell, dating was always a little tricky. I could kind of understand Sphery’s obsession with her zombies. They just wandered around aimlessly and did what she said, if they weren’t looking at themselves. But they seemed to keep her happy enough.
Dating being difficult aside, it still didn’t begin to excuse Serosity’s behavior. There was simply no excuse for casting a spell on the sexiest men alive. No matter what People magazine said.
I had never enjoyed doing spell work or harnessing my power.
Over the years, I did my best to avoid doing it at all, with the exception of being with my sisters. But I knew now I was going to be forced to do just that. It was going to take all of us working together to remove the beast of a man’s memories. I was pissed because it was inconvenient. But I was also curious. Because, if her prisoner was who I thought, I could almost understand my idiot sister’s actions. He was the hottest, sexiest, beast of a normal I had ever seen. It wouldn’t be going too far to admit I wanted to climb that man like a tree. Or that I’d based a few of my male characters on him. But that didn’t change the fact that Serosity had delayed my break with the family and was forcing me to practice magic.
The only upside to being forced to cooperate with my family was that I would at least be able to drool over the guy that played Conan. (Not Arnold. The other, newer, better-looking one.) He wouldn’t remember anything but I would, forever. And I was kinda looking forward to it. But just one last time. After that, never again.
After working all my issues through in my mind, I sat at my computer and opened my latest book. After sitting there looking through the words I had written the previous day, I gave up. I wasn’t happy about it because it was the first time I had been stifled in my writing process. My mind was still on my family even after I had attempted to banish them. I had planned on enduring the normal memories because it would be my last time.
I really should have known better; my plans very rarely turned out like I wanted.
I stomped through the house, walked into the bakery, smiled at my new manager and only friend, and went outside to walk on the beach.
Walking in the sand always soothed me.
I waded into the water and kicked at the waves. It was my petty attempt to ensure my little sister knew I wasn’t happy. I never claimed to be the most mature hundred and twenty-year-old.
After clearing my head and accepting the fact that I was really going one last time, I decided I was not going without a date.
Deciding on something didn’t mean I didn’t put the whole process off. Instead, I checked in on Mavis. She was busy with the baking, but I still mumbled that I couldn’t get anything written. I was hoping she would share my pain but all she did was smile at me. I toyed with the thought of continuing to try to entice her into a conversation but instead nodded at her and told her I would see her in the morning. After leaving her, I dragged my feet up the ten steps to my door.
I ate a couple of cinnamon rolls and drank a Red Bull before opening up my laptop.
The Internet was a marvelous invention. When they say there are dating apps for everyone, they are not kidding. I ventured to a part of the web most normal people knew nothing about, the gray web. It was a place for naturals to connect in various ways. The reunion was only a month away and I had absolutely zero prospects. And like it or not, I couldn’t take a normal to my ancestral home. That would be disastrous. So I found a site called Supernaturalsonly.com and reluctantly filled out a form, lying as little as possible.
Location (preferred): Florida
Species (please be honest): Witch, no warts
Allergies: Jerks, Trolls
Organizational memberships: None
About me: I really don’t know what to put here. I need a date for a reunion. I do enjoy sitting by a nice fire on a cold night. I am better suited for a taller man as I am freakishly tall myself.
Seeking (ideal match and type of relationship: Muscular man who is not easily intimidated and can command attention in a room full of eccentric personalities. I’m not looking for anything long term, but I wouldn’t hate it.
The whole thing made me feel a little dirty (omitting the truth, not dating) so I showered and turned on the television. I was relieved to hear there wasn’t an APB out for the actor.
Most—no … who was I kidding, all of my evenings for the last several years had gone the same. Write, avoid family at all costs, make sure the bakery was doing all right, eat, shower, and sleep. While I was snuggling into my pillow, I reminded my pity-party throwing self that I had ventured out of the norm. I had paid attention to some of the news even if it was for self-serving reasons; I had filled out a dating form; and I hadn’t been able to avoid my family. So I convinced myself I had had a different, exciting day and hoped it wasn’t going to become the norm. I enjoyed my life, for the most part.
When I woke up the next morning I had six texts and fifteen emails. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. (Most days my phone didn’t make a noise.) I steadied myself before looking at the texts.
The first three were from Serosity.
He is the guy from your book, huh?
Yep, I am soooo not giving him back.
No need for you to come after all.
I wiped my eyes and then rolled them several times. I was a lot jealous. It might not have been the proper thing to do but I sent the emoji for fuck you. She might have been enjoying him. And who wouldn’t? But she was absolutely giving him back. There was no question about that. It was good of her to let me know we were in for a fight though.
I looked at the remaining messages while stumbling to the kitchen.
Two were from Skye, reassuring me that I was needed and reminding me I had promised.
The last one was from Sphery, repeating Skye’s sentiments but adding a smiley face at the end.
I wondered if that emoji was supposed to make me feel better, because it didn’t. Matter of fact, it verged on being creepy. My oldest sister might have been forced, like the rest of us, into accepting technology, but she was most definitely not the emoji type.
I put off reading my emails until after I showered and finished my first cup of coffee.
When I saw the messages were all from the dating site, I got a little flushed. Not that I didn’t have a lot to offer naturals; I did. I was an interesting, accomplished Witch, an impressive and frightening elemental, an author, and I wasn’t too hard to look at either. But I had not been totally honest about who I was. And I was pretty sure all the faux-suitors would be gone, most probably sprinting away, as soon as we met.
Again, dating for me … complicated.
I decided after work that I would look at them a little closer.
My day started like normal. I opened the doors for Mavis and left her to it. After showering and munching on some of Mavis’s donuts, I opened my document and again realized I was looking right through it. I gave up for the second day in a row and went to talk to Mavis. Whether she was busy or not, I was going to talk. Just not about anything that was really bothering me. I didn’t write well when I was stressed, and my sisters were stress personified.
Mavis had been one of the first people to apply for the job at the bakery when I finally decided to open it. She had all the right credentials but she didn’t look the part. When I met her, I was actually concerned she would drive away business.
She applied for the job dressed in black. Black hair, black clothes, black lipstick, you get the picture. I took a shine to her instantly. During the longer than normal interview, she told me she was a Witch and that she would need certain days off. I liked her immediately and wanted her to work for me, but knew it was going to be difficult if she went around our little town speaking freely about her religion.
Instead of offering her the job, I suggested she keep personal information to herself. She left the interview looking hurt and disappointed. I hoped she would understand I was looking out for her, and was pleasantly surprised when after a week, she returned a changed person. She was pretty underneath all the makeup. Attractive. And, whether she knew it or not, a natural. I was convinced she’d had no guidance, so I took her under my wing.
Owning a bakery and making a thriving business out of it were two different things. Being who I was, I knew I had absolutely no business attempting to cook anything for others’ consumption. I kept the bakery closed for six months while Mavis fine-tuned everything. We worked side by side every day and quickly became friends. She was the first friend I had and one day I planned on being honest about who I was and who she was. Mavis was the only person I let read my books and, like I said before, I was a published author because of her. I was overjoyed to know she enjoyed her job and that I could trust her with the business. Especially since my plan to avoid the reunion wasn’t working out like I’d planned. Big surprise.
Mavis reassured me everything would run like clockwork without me. I wanted to believe that, but I might have had a few issues with control.
Because of my aforementioned affliction, I reminded her that she could call or text me if she needed anything.
She nodded and continued her work. “Why haven’t you been able to write?”
I sighed and shrugged my shoulders.
“It’s just not like you. Is something going on? Are you worried about your family thing?”
“Yeah. My sisters are a handful. It must be the stress of that. I am going to try again today.”
“You know you can tell me anything, right? At least I hope you can.” She was filling cupcakes as she spoke.
I was glad she wasn’t looking at me because I was sure I had a horrified look on my face. She was sweet to say what she had but it wasn’t true. I was a Gullveig sister above everything else. Who I was wasn’t something I freely admitted to anyone. I planned on telling her my whole sordid story but the perfect time hadn’t come up, so I continued to put it off. Mavis was my friend and I enjoyed her company. I wanted to keep it that way.
“I do, and I’m sure it’s just nerves. I am going to write at least two thousand words today, promise.” I walked out the door as I finished my pledge.
While I was sitting in front of the computer I managed to write a thousand words. They weren’t necessarily good words but it was progress, and those precious few words had taken me three hours. I wasn’t happy about my first bout of writer’s block but it did give me plenty of time to weed through my emails. As strange as it was, I was actually looking forward to it.
I opened a bottle of wine and laid out some cheese and crackers. What I was doing couldn’t make me feel as dirty if I was eating cheese and crackers, right?
After drinking two glassfuls in quick succession, I opened up my email. Much to my amazement the number of messages had quadrupled. I couldn’t help but think of what a good time I could have had if not for the, you know, flame thing. That and keeping the universe in balance. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t convinced the universe needed my sisters and me in order to continue to prosper, but that was just my opinion on the matter.
I knew when I did actually break the cycle of meetings that my theory would be put to the test. I held onto the belief that if I was wrong and my absence caused something horrible to happen, I would seek them out and we would fix the situation. My sisters didn’t appear to agree with my choice, but it wasn’t going to change my mind. I wanted to live as normal of a life as an extremely strong natural could. Growing old sounded like a pleasant experience.
I realized I wasn’t paying much attention to my prospects because I was once again fixating on my family. I took another drink and forced myself to be interested in the profiles.
After looking through most of the pages, I saw one that piqued my interest.
Thanatos Megalos = Greek.
With a name like that, I didn’t think he needed to give his nationality; it was pretty obvious. Under his age, he put a question mark. Not that that was unusual. The profile was by no means complete, but the information he did share looked promising. He gave his height at 6’ 5”. That was a plus. So many men were shorter than me. In the comment section all he wrote was “I love hot things.” Well, they didn’t come much hotter than me. And speaking of hot, if that really was his picture then I was even more interested in meeting him for coffee. Just to see if he was all talk. I figured it was worth a little of my time to find out.
There were still a few other candidates to look through but I wasn’t really enjoying the process. I’d found the one interesting prospect so I sent him an email.
My name is Seraphina. Saw your profile. Wanna meet for coffee? I can meet you at the bakery off of Palomino Road tomorrow, say, around noonish?
After sending the email I ate some soup, drank the rest of the bottle of wine, showered, and got comfy on my couch. I resisted the urge to look at my phone for over three hours and was disappointed when I did. I told myself to calm the hell down and, before I fell asleep watching a silent movie starring my older sister’s zombie/boy toy, reminded myself most people had a life after work. Even after being raised from the dead, he was still sexy as hell. In my opinion he wasn’t much of an actor, but I knew that put me in the minority. And I would never tell him that.
When I woke the next morning, I busied myself with anything I could think of to stop myself from obsessing over the email I was owed.
My heartbeat sped up a little when I saw there was a message from my pick of men.
I will be there at one. Look forward to meeting you.
The reply was short and sweet, but it was my first (kinda) date in years. I put my coffee down and returned to the shower to shave everything. It had been a long time, and if he looked like his picture then I was not averse to good old-fashioned one-time amazing sex. In fact, I was almost certain it would improve my outlook.
When I walked into the shoppe, Mavis smiled as she continued pulling trays out of the ovens.
“Did you get anything written yesterday?” she asked hopefully.
“I did, but don’t know if it was shit or not. I will read it later. Right now, I am going to help out front.”
“That would be great. And I am sure your work isn’t shit. I love everything you write.”
“That’s because you are my friend. But I appreciate you.”
I didn’t give her time to argue before I walked out front. After working my way behind the cashier, I began to clear tables.
I turned quickly but calmly.
Rule number two in the Gullveig sistery: Never let anyone think they caught you off guard.
The intruder had. But I had been busy playing out the way I wanted my date to go, so I was understandably preoccupied. Still, I knew there was no excuse. A Gullveig sister had to always be on her toes. If one should come up missing, really missing, not just not going to the reunion, then the world would be in peril or something terrible would happen.
Or so it was written, somewhere or other.
I chastised myself and looked down. I really can’t be blamed for that. I was lucky if I looked a man directly in the throat. It was a pleasant surprise. I took a step back and instead looked up at the man.
There was something familiar about him, but I was sure that if I had seen him before I would have remembered. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling of kinship with him.
Familiar or not, the man wasn’t my type at all. First thing was, he was bald. I liked hair. Any man I was attracted to had to have lots of hair. The colossus standing in front of me raised one of his eyebrows but remained silent as I continued my appraisal of him.
He was tall, tanned, muscular, and tattooed. The man was very easy on the eyes, even if he was looking at me like I was impeding him somehow.
“Can I help you?” I asked as I wiped my hand and extended it to him.
“My … sister works here. Her name is Mavis.”
He took my hand in his and shook it gently, like he was afraid he would hurt me. It was a sweet but totally uncalled-for gesture. Normals were touching sometimes.
I removed my hand and gestured in the direction of the kitchen. “Mavis? You’re her brother? Wow … huh. Before you go, let me tell you how much I appreciate your sister. She is doing a terrific job.”
The least I could do after ogling the man was tell him how much I valued Mavis.
I was surprised Mavis hadn’t talked about her brother before. He looked in the direction I pointed and, before walking away, nodded and smiled.
The hulking man had a mouthful of gorgeous teeth. I stood still and watched him walk away because his ass was something to ogle too. I was giving serious thought to casting a spell that would make his hair grow. It passed before I could totally commit to it. I had already started mentally ticking off the boxes. Would it hurt anyone? Nope. Was I spellcasting with any harmful intentions? Not at all. Was it coming close to interfering with the man’s life? Maybe. That was where I stopped considering the act and slowly walked into the back to eavesdrop on the man and my friend.