Three Years Later – Holly’s P.0.V.
The breeze was blissfully cold against my skin, the sunlight a slight tingle that rippled over my exposed arms and shoulders.
Winter was approaching, tainting the air with its crisp scent. No matter how much I ventured outdoors and basked in the sunlight, I wasn’t sure I’d ever get enough. Even though I burned easily- thank you, Vampire genetics-it was a wonderful taste of freedom that I’d never take for granted.
The shrill screams of children playing pierced my eárs. I didn’t find it irksome the way some of the parents here did. Despite how loud they were, their wails were full of joy and innocence that could never be replicated or replaced.
I looked up from the stack of papers in my hands, focusing on the children racing across the mulch just ten feet away. The tiny font had been giving me a headache for the past two hours now.
“Honey, you need to stop and tie your shoe! You’re going to trip and fall.” The woman on the bench beside me shouted, wrapping her pea coat tighter around her wa!st when a breeze traveled through.
A little girl with sable pigtails halted in her tracks, her head turned in the direction of the woman’s voice. She got down on one knee, and tied the laces of her sparkly tennis shoes before taking off towards the monkey bars.
Someday soon, Lola’s twin’s would be running around this very playground. Just last month we’d all gathered for their first birthday. A daydream began to form in my head, painting an idyllic picture that felt like it belonged to some other girl and not myself.
It wasn’t just Lola’s twins running amok, climbing the jungle gym to race down the spiral slide. They were accompanied by another child, a little girl with Tristan’s golden hair and my pale eyes.
I shook my head, clearing the image from my mind. No matter how many therapy sessions I attended, there was this cloud of guilt that followed me, looming over my head and blotting out the sunlight.
Lola deserved her happily ever after. She’d fought tooth and nail for it. I didn’t fight for anything, yet here I was with a wonderful mate and a future ripe for the taking.
I wasn’t entirely sure I deserved any of it.
Another hour passed before the woman stood from the bench and corralled the little girl into their arms. Now alone, I basked in the warmth that k!ssed my skin, wishing it would ease the ball of nerves in my stomach.
I glared at the stack of papers on my la*p and sighed heavily. These would have to be dealt with.
There was no one else to pass them off on, unfortunately.
A shadow passed in front of my face, erasing the sun from view. I craned my head up to see Clara standing over me, a hand propped on her curvy h!p. Her lips were tilted in a knowing smile.
“How can someone look so miserable on a day like this?” She drawled before plopping down beside me.
“Hah.” I laughed, then held the stack of paperwork out for her to see. “This is how.”
Another breeze kicked up, whipping my hair around my shoulders. Clara’s curls bounced happily. Having straight, fine hair was becoming a curse all on its own.
Clara winced. “Ouch. Yeah, that doesn’t look like fun. What’s it for?”
Shifting on the bench, I passed her the stack of papers. Her eyes skimmed over the words several times. I couldn’t blame her for not figuring it out quite yet. The words printed were long and monotonous, drawn up by a lawyer with a far better education than Id ever received.
After a few seconds, I lifted my hand and tapped on a symbol at the top of the first page. It was a medieval-looking crest with a raven at its center, cIosed by a sword and a spear. Clara’s eyes flickered over the coat of arms before gasping excitedly.
“No way! It’s actually done being built?” She exclaimed, her lips pulling back into a smile. The way she grabbed my hands and squealed helped ease the ball of anxiety in my stomach, but only slightly. I still had this mountain of paperwork to deal with.
The Magisterium, as Tristan and I named it, was the world’s first ever academy for the magical arts.
When I presented the idea to Lola, she was absolutely ecstatic. I hadn’t wanted to put more on her plate, so I told her I’d take control of the project. She and Asher gave me everything I could’ve ever needed to kick start the thing.
The Academy was now finished being built, and with its shiny new halls and state of the art classrooms, the doubts began trickling in.
“It is, but we’ve still got a long way to go before the place is up and running.” I murmured with a heavy sigh. Taking the paperwork from Clara’s hands, I stared down at the mess of permits, contracts, and employment applications.
Clara’s features softened with concern. She pursed her lips, placing a hand on my shoulder to snare my attention. “Hey, what’s wrong? You should be excited. This is everything you’ve worked for.”
“It is…” I trailed off, biting the inside of my cheek. “I -I just don’t know what I’m doing anymore. I mean, seriously. I’m not equipped to teach. I barely know enough about my own magic. This was my idea, but now that it’s complete, I have no clue what to do next.”
“You know, I’d love a teaching position myself.”
Clara said, quickly trailing off. She hummed thoughtfully, her eyes flicking over the paper and the stack of applications I had to deal with.
Startling me, she squealed and jumped up from the bench. Her hands were on my shoulders before I could think to react. There was a cheeky grin on her face, and a strange light in her eyes that I wanted to uncover.
“What is it?” I asked, a hint of skepticism bleeding into my voice.
“I have the perfect idea on what you can do.” She exuded smugness, which only made my curiosity worsen. More than anything, I wanted answers on what to do next-on what direction to take my life in.
I sat up straighten, holding back the desperation that swelled in my voice. “Well, what is it?”
“How does Headmistress Holly sound?” She asked, a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.
It was hard to believe that was one year ago, but as I walk down the main hall of the Magisterium, my heels clicking against the freshly steamed tile, I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.
The girl who lacked confidence, who was afraid of the world and all it had to offer, was slowly dwindling away with each day that passed. I still spoke with my therapist, but it was now on an as-needed basis.
This entire time, I had a support system. I’d been too wrapped up in my head, too angry at the mistakes I made in the past, to dare reach out and claim it.
“Headmistress.” Carl, the janitor, said warmly.
Smoothing the cobalt blazer I wore, the one with our crest embroidered on the pocket, I returned his smile. “Good morning, Carl. Ready for the new school year?”
“Oh, I’m ready. These little hellions won’t get me this year.” He laughed, pulling out a small fire extinguisher from his cleaning cart.
As hard as I tried to stifle my laugh, it slipped out without warning. “I promise you, there won’t be a repeat of last year. Regardless, I’m glad you came prepared.”
Poor Carl was the target of a fiery mishap last year from one of our younger elementals. The girl hadn’t meant to hit him in the shoulder, but his clothes went up in flame, nonetheless. Thankfully, after a few afterschool training sessions, there were no further incidents.
“No worries, Headmistress. They’re young and bound to make a mistake or twelve before getting it right Carl winked and continued down the hall.
He was such a good sport, and all too understanding with the witches at the Academy.
The work Lola and Asher was doing was slowly paying off. There were significantly less issues this year than ever before, and the werewolves in this pack were slowly warming up to the idea of coexisting.
I continued on my warpath of going over this year’s roster. Listed on the papers I held in my hand were the students and their respective classes. Alongside their individual subjects were the teachers that taught them.
If only I’d known that becoming Headmistress meant I’d eat, sleep, and breathe paperwork, I might’ve not taken Clara’s suggestion so seriously.
Speaking of Clara, I looked down at the mess of papers in my hands, searching for the number to her classroom. After finding it on page three, I traveled down the length of the hall which veered to the left to end in a large square. There was an additional corridor down the center that led to my personal office, which is where I’d retreat afterwards before heading home to Tristan.
He’d been a bit disgruntled leaving my side whenever I went to the Academy, but I was slowly learning to control my magic and could handle myself for the few hours I was away. Thanks to Breyona, our resident librarian, I now had more texts than ever on blood-magic, My sister’s best- friend had traveled half the country so far, discovering hidden texts and manuals on different kinds of magic.
She’s one of the many things keeping this place together, and even volunteer’s her time at our second location, which opened just this year.
I peeked my head in Clara’s classroom and was greeted by a wave of laughter and cheers. With Asher and Lola funding the place, we had enough money to build large classrooms full of color. The beanbag chairs and rolling tables were anything but conventional, but the children loved them.
Crystal sun catchers hung from the ceiling, casting rainbows along the floor. That was a personal touch of Clara’s, one some of the other professors replicated.
Clara stood at the front of the classroom, swiping a stick of chalk over the blackboard. As I entered the room, effectively stealing the attention of her class, a grin swelled on her face. The ankle-length skirt she wore swished in a sea of pattern and color, matching her tank top and the lilac eyeshadow she painted on her lids.
“Well if it isn’t our wonderful Headmistress. Say hello everybody!”
Many of the budding witches cupped their hands over their mouth to shout, while others were a bit more reserved. A chorus of Hello, Headmistress’ rang out into the room.
“Hello, everyone. Are you all excited for the start of the school year?” I asked, sweeping my eyes over nearly a dozen heads.
The girls in the class were virtually all of the same age. Here at the Magisterium, we grouped classes based on skill level. All that mattered was that these young pupils were beginners. At the end of their third year, they’d be evaluated and sorted based on their individual magical callings.
After their excited string of ‘yes’s’ died down, I turned to Clara and waved the roster sheet that I held in my hand.
“Oh, new students. Let me see!” She chirped, ushering me over to her desk. Plucking the paper from my hands, she glanced up at her class. “Girls, chat amongst yourselves while the Headmistress and I go over this year’s roster. Oh, and no magic.”
Clara’s lips twitched as she looked up at a little girl with chubby cheeks and golden hair. Locking eyes with her she shouted, “That especially goes for you, Angelica!”
The little girl in question nodded rapidly, her lips threaded in a thin line. As soon as Clara’s head was turned, her eyes scanning the class roster, Angelica spread her arms and unleashed a cloud of crystalline butterflies that sparkled as they crossed into the beams of sunlight permeating the room.
Before I could think to say anything, a small hand appeared at my wa!st. The little witch it belonged to had dark skin and a head of curly hair. She tugged the front of my blazer to get my attention.
“What’s her name?” The little girl asked, eyes bright with curiosity.
It was a bit odd, but I ignored the twinge and replied, “You know who I am, silly. My name’s Holly.”
The girl shook her head, her curls bouncing around her shoulders. Clara looked up from the roster and tilted her head. We shared a confused, but curios look before the girl’s hand slid from the hem of my blazer and came to rest on my stomach.
“No, Headmistress. I’m talking about the baby.”