An hour later, clean, and dressed, she grabbed her bag and jerked a thumb towards the door. “C’mon Krex, let’s get some of the good stuff down at The Bee. That brewer we got just can’t hold a candle to the magic that Dana pours in a cup.” She felt the spirit at her side as she walked out the door and headed down the street.
15 minutes later, she pulled open the door of The Bee and inhaled deeply. The little soykaf shop buzzed with people, and the smells of baked goods and soykaf wafted around her. Dana denied any magical ability, but Katjia wasn’t sure she believed her. There just wasn’t any other way to explain how Dana managed to create soykaf that tasted just like the real thing.
She caught Dana’s eye as she worked hurriedly behind the counter and nodded. She spent enough time here that she didn’t bother ordering, Dana would bring her usual out to a table as soon as she had a second to spare. Katjia settled in and pulled out her commlink to confirm the meet for later that day. She gazed out the window as she waited for responses from the team. A mangy stray dog wandered by the window, and the memories flooded over Katjia before she realized what was happening.
The day the gangers killed their dog had been the day everything had changed for Katjia. As she tore up the stairs after Sera, she cursed herself for not keeping her mind in check. She didn’t have time to think about what that was she had thrown at the gangers, but she knew it was bad. She stumbled up the last step, chest heaving for breath and with a growing pain in her head. Please don’t let her have told Mom. Please, please just let her remember the gangers and not me! Katjia’s voice in her head pleaded with anyone who cared to listen.
As she pushed open the apartment door, she saw her mother kneeling on the floor; Sera crying hysterically in her arms. Her mother’s eyes met hers, and in them she saw the same terror she had seen in Sera’s moments before. Tears ran down Katjia’s face as she knelt next to her mother “Mom! Please, I…”
“Is it true?” Her mother’s voice cut her off before she could say another word, “Sera said you..u…used…magic?”
“Mom, I..I don’t know! I mean.. yeah, but it’s not like that!”
“Not like what? After all those years of your father and I trying to keep you and Sera safe from those..those…mages!” She spat out the word in a harsh whisper, as if the mere mention of mages would bring the wrath of every magic-user in the world crashing down on their heads, “That you know they took your father and yet you would hide that drek under my roof…and put your sister in danger…” The waves of anger and fear played out in her face and voice.
“Mom, please…I’m sorry! I just…I didn’t know what to do!” Katjia’s voice broke as she looked at her mother, searching her eyes with her own and imploring her forgiveness.
“What you can do,” her mother spat, “Is Get. Out. Take your things, get out of this house, and leave us alone.” Her voice was cold now, low and almost guttural.
“Mom…no, please!” Katjia searched her mother’s eyes for the love that had always been there but found only a suspicious, icy stare.
Her mother stood abruptly, breaking her eyes away and lifting Sera away from Katjia, “I don’t know what you are now, but you were my daughter once. For that, I will do you one small courtesy. Go pack your things; I will load a credstick with the money we received from your father’s life insurance.” She looked at Katjia now, her eyes cold and blank, “You will take the money and your things and you will leave this place and never return. Go. Now!”
Katjia took a breath to argue, to defend herself, to beg her mother to understand; but as she looked at her mother standing there, holding Sera as if she were afraid Katjia would cast some spell and kill them both, she was suddenly empty. All the anger and fear drained from her in an instant and she had nothing left with which to fight. She turned and went to her room and began stuffing things in a suitcase, too defeated to worry about where she would go next.
She crammed clothes, a warm coat, and her favorite blanket into her backpack, for once not bothering to worry about how fashionable her outfits were or if she had packed enough accessories. She thought back to the vacations her family had taken before her father disappeared; when her parents would give her a good-natured ribbing about how much she packed for just a week away. Sera would sneak in to her room the night before they left and they would giggle and talk about all the wiz things they wanted to do until Sera fell asleep, curled up in Katjia’s bed and drooling.
Katja shook her head; she didn’t have time to reminisce now, she needed to focus before her mother called Knight Errant and ratted her out for being a mage. She threw her hiking boots in on top of the suitcase and sipped it closed. Standing up, she cast one final look around the room. Through her tears, she looked at everything; trying to commit it all to memory, to etch it in to her mind so that she would never forget. She spotted a picture on the headboard and reached to pick it up. The picture showed her family, all of them decked out in obnoxious Hawaiian shirts on the last vacation they took before her father disappeared. Her father had insisted on getting real, paper prints made of the photo, even though it was on every one of their trid-frames, along with pictures from all the vacations they had taken over the years. She gave silent thanks for his old-fashioned quirkiness, and tucked the frame into her backpack, giving the room one last look as she turned to go.
When she returned to the kitchen, her mother was sitting at the table, holding Sera. She pointed to a small pouch on the edge of the table, “The credstick is in there. I…I packed you some food…” her voice broke trailed off as she stifled a sob. As Katjia reached for the package, her mother’s hand reached toward her, Katjia froze. Her mother stopped suddenly and dropped her hand, seemingly afraid to touch her own daughter for fear of what she would do. Katjia looked at her mother, “Katjia. My child…I’m sorry, but this is how it must be.” Katjia nodded, fighting to find her voice through the tears.
“I know Mom, I’m so sorry. I don’t want you and Sera to be in any more danger because of me.” She looked at Sera, quiet now, but wide-eyed in fear on her mother’s lap, “You’re in charge now Ser-Bear,” Sera relaxed a bit at the old nickname. “You be good, study hard in school, and…” she choked back a sob, “Take care of mom for me, ok? Keep her safe, ya know?” Sera nodded silently, slipping off her mother’s lap and running down the hall.
Katjia looked at her mother one last time, “Well, I really fragged it up good this time, huh?” She thought she saw a slight hint of a smile play behind her mother’s eyes at the use of the cuss word. “I love you, Mom.” The sob escaped her throat before she could stop it and she wept openly as she walked to the door.
“Wait! Kit-Kat, wait!” Katjia turned as her sister ran down the hall and stopped in front of her. “Take this, it will keep you safe, remember?” Sera pressed something into her hand and hesitated for a moment before throwing her arms around Katjia in a hug.
“Katjia dropped her suitcase and wrapped her arms around her sister, “Oh Ser-Bear, I love you, you big doofus!”
“I love you too, dork-butt.” Sera said through her own sobs. She pulled away, reaching down to hand Katjia the suitcase.
Katjia took one last look around the room, committing the faces of her mother and sister to her memory. She turned the knob and stepped out the door. The door clicked closed as she squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, and took the first step into the unkown.
“Here you are hun; one black soykaf and a croissant” The waitress set her order down on the table, startling Katjia out of the past and into the shop.
“Drek, Dana, I’m sorry. My mind just wandered off there!” Katja looked up at Dana and blinked, trying to clear the memories from her head.
“That’s alright hun, welcome back. You might wanna drink that b’fore it gets cold though.” She gestured at the soykaf, “You have a good day now kiddo, we’ll see you around, huh?”
“Sure Dana, you know this place is my favorite.” Katjia gestured to the shop and grinned. Dana grinned back and turned to start the next order.
“We couldn’t get rid of this girl if we tried!” Daniel’s voice boomed behind her as he walked up to the table. He put a hand on the back of her chair and leaned down “Reservation for 4 at 15:00, right kiddo?” Daniels voice was quiet now.
“Right. Thanks Daniel.” Katjia took the maglock key Dana had brought her out from under the croissant and slipped it into her pocket, “I’ve got some errands to run first, but I’ll be back around 14:45. The band should be here soon after, send them in?”
“Sure thing, kiddo.” Daniel responded with a wink and turned to go back to the office. “You take care out there now, you scan me?”
“Yep, I scan, Dan.” Katjia grinned at her own bad joke and tucked the croissant into her bag. She grabbed the soykaf cup and slipped through the busy shop and out on to the street.