The truth never came to her in full, clear pieces. It was always jagged, blurry, and confusing. The line between black and white was thick and gray, and it was hard to try and see both sides of the spectrum without tripping and landing in the middle.
But what Sophie had learned wasn’t that she should try and fully understand everything that came her way—that led to disaster. And although she felt like her life was already a big giant puddle of a lushberry juice mess, she knew one thing.
No matter how hard they tried, the Black Swan couldn’t get away with just playing nice and trying to save everyone with no harm done. Their enemy was crueler, harsher, and they had no qualms about sacrificing their ranks.
So what they were going to have to do wasn’t to try and sneak around—they were going to have to fight back.
And this time, none of them could hold anything back.
As soon as the light hit Sophie’s eyes, she was up. She hadn’t even closed her blinds the previous night, knowing that she would probably end up late to the Healing Center.
It had been about a week since Keefe had come back with her to the Lost Cities in a coma-like state, and every other morning Sophie rose quickly and early to go and see him. She would sit there and wait patiently, as if to silently beg Keefe to wake up and smirk at her. She’d spent countless hours there—when she wasn’t checking in with Team Valiant and watching over the alicorn babies, she was with Keefe, quietly watching over him as he slept. She was the most anxious out of everyone, and although she would sometimes run into her friends there, there was no question of who was with him the most.
Surprisingly, running into Fitz wasn’t as awkward as she had dreaded. After the official, calm breakup, he’d kept his promise and been one of her most loyal friends. Every now and then she would catch a clenched fist or a wistful glance, but then it would disappear and he would smile and talk with her. She felt oddly relieved. She thought that she would’ve been heartbroken, but she just…wasn’t.
All she could think of, ever, was Keefe. Even Glimmer’s still-secret identity and Tam’s slim reassurances that she was to be trusted had slipped her mind. And that was why she quickly ate her breakfast and practically ran through the halls of Foxfire to get to him.
When she arrived, Elwin was standing over Keefe with his glasses on. As if on cue, when she walked in, he waved. He flashed a few orbs of light around the unconscious boy and then turned to greet Sophie.
Before he could get a word out, Sophie asked, “How is he doing? Is he any better?”
Elwin chuckled and answered, “He’s doing fine, Sophie. His vitals are strong and everything is basically the same. His heartbeat is still a little fast, but that’s okay. It’s not messing with anything super important.” Sophie breathed a sigh of relief and plopped onto the bed next to the blonde boy.
“So, what’s it going to be this time, Sophie? You have any ideas for what you’re going to try to wake him up with? If not, I have a little adventure for you,” Elwin said, smiling.
Sophie's head perked up. Whenever she came to visit Keefe, she would go around the school for a little “adventure,” and she’d come back to tell Keefe and Elwin about it. She knew Keefe probably couldn’t hear her, but it felt nice to have something to talk about, especially when the awkward silence got to be too much.
“Oh,” she said, smiling slightly, “What’s your idea?”
Elwin grinned and replied, “A trip to the secret Mentor’s kitchen. I remember that Keefe showed you where it was when you were here before, so it might be nice to go there again. And, you know, bring us back some food.”
Sophie grinned back, raising her eyebrows before telling him, “If anything happens, you hail me. Immediately. Okay?” Elwin nodded and made a mocking “shoo” sign with his hand before returning to his wall of medicine.
And Sophie walked out of the Healing Center in search of the delicious paradise that was the kitchen.
She walked for about twenty minutes before she finally stumbled upon the entrance that she remembered Keefe showing her. She walked inside and, luckily, found it empty. Spotting a stack of plates, she grabbed one and started filling it heartily. She knew that she couldn’t fill two, because she could see herself dropping one immediately. She didn’t have any coordination, so she couldn’t carry two plates filled with food at once.
Once the plate was thoroughly piled with mallowmelt and custard bursts and countless other desserts, Sophie hesitantly made her way out of the door and back into the hallways of Foxfire.
She had to admit, she was a little disappointed that Elwin hadn’t hailed her. She never tried to get her hopes up, but not too deep down there was an ache that made her wish that he would just hail her and tell her that some progress had been made, no matter how little. But every time she came, every trip she took, she never got hailed. There was never any new news—he was physically healthy—and so she would come back and talk for a while so as to forget the lingering frustration building inside of her.
And then she was back, back in the Healing Center, back to Elwin, back to the unresponsive Keefe. And she was smiling, smiling, smiling until her cheeks hurt with the effort. She was eating the food, trying to manage laughs and talking, but all the while slipping out of focus and letting her eyes drift to the still form of Keefe.
And then she began to forget her disappointment, and she was laughing. And then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Keefe’s hand twitch. Elwin’s head whipped around with hers, and they watched it twitch again. They locked eyes, and suddenly Elwin was jumping up and grabbing his glasses and flashing lights everywhere. Sophie watched on as Keefe’s other hand twitched, and then his feet. She was on edge, and then she watched his eyelids twitch. One flicker, two flickers, three flickers, and with every minuscule glimpse of his eyes, Sophie grew more and more restless.
And then, suddenly, she moved in front of him so that she could be closer to his face, and she whispered, “Keefe, wake up.” And then, as if her voice had brought him back, his eyes burst open and his lips parted. Sophie sucked in a breath as his eyes locked onto hers.
And suddenly her whole world was revolving around him saying, “Foster?”
She stared, shell-shocked. When she’d gotten to the Healing Center that day, she hadn’t expected anything to come of it. Her motto nowadays was “same old, same old.” But apparently it didn’t have to be. And she didn’t have any words to express that.
So she just gaped.
And stared some more.
And then Keefe was moving, as slowly as she’d ever seen, to hug her. Sophie buried her face in his neck, trying to pretend that she wasn’t on the verge of crying. She stayed there for as long as she could, gripping Keefe gently, trying to assure herself that it wasn’t a dream, before Elwin made her move over so he could flash assorted lights all over. There had never been a moment in Sophie’s life that was as stressful as this.
At some point, Keefe asked, “How long have I been out? And, uh, um, what…what happened?” And so Sophie gulped and tried to explain everything in full as best as she could. She glossed over the details of what she could, hoping he wouldn’t have a clear enough idea of the moment that he wouldn’t question her. She focused mostly on Tam, Linh, and Glimmer, deciding it would be best to talk about that.
Her mind drifted to the twins as she started. They’d basically been arguing since Tam got back, once they’d settled in and gotten past the overjoyed part. Since Linh was now staying at Choralmere because of Tam’s warning, there was a real problem between the two. Tam didn’t want to go back to Choralmere because of the rocky past he’d had with his parents, so he was trying to convince Linh to leave. Linh was trying to convince him to stay with her, however. Glimmer was basically always with Tam, too, which made Linh uncomfortable and made it a whole lot worse.
“So,” Keefe said slowly, “What you’re trying to tell me is that Bangs Boy and Linh are arguing about what they should do now that she’s living at her parents’ house, and Glimmer won’t do anything but talk to Bangs Boy, and no one knows who she is, and no one really knows if they can trust her, and you’re spending time here?” Sophie flushed and nodded, glancing off towards the door. She didn’t know when, but she was sure that her friends were going to burst in at any moment.
But then it wasn’t her friends bursting in, it was Elwin for the fiftieth time, flashing some more lights. Giving Keefe some more elixirs for the faint ache he had from sitting for a week. Coming in with food. Doing more and more stuff. But this time, as Elwin was about to flash some more lights, he suddenly backed up and away. And Keefe was sitting there, frozen.
And then Elwin came back in, eyes wide, and he said, “What did you do? Did you make me leave? Because I suddenly wanted to leave, and there wasn’t a good reason for it. Somebody explain.” Keefe, eyes even wider, opened and closed his mouth several times before he made a small squeak and almost knocked over Elwin as he left the room.
“KEEFE,” Elwin yelled, “YOU NEED TO COME BACK! I DIDN’T GIVE YOU CLEARANCE TO LEAVE!”
Before Sophie knew it, she was running. She was following footsteps and the small clicks of Keefe’s shoes on the floor, and then she finally spotted him. Channeling her newfound teleporting powers, because this was a moment where she had to make sure Keefe was okay, she skipped ahead and accidentally tackled him.
They fell to the floor, and Sophie could already spot a tear glistening on its way down Keefe’s cheek. She had no idea why he was so upset, but she was absolutely positive that it had everything to do with what had just happened with Elwin.
“Keefe,” she said gently, propping herself up on one knee, “I need you to tell me what happened. Please. I want to help you.”
Keefe shuddered in reply and shook his head. Sophie grabbed his hand, tracing small circles into the back of it. He leaned forward and put his head on her shoulder, shaking. Sophie’s heart throbbed with emotion, and although she didn’t know exactly what had happened, she was biting back tears herself. Seeing Keefe hurt, no matter how small, hurt Sophie.
“Please, Keefe. If you can’t tell me, show me somehow. Let me read your mind. Let me help you, please,” Sophie coaxed.
Keefe croaked out, “I’ll show you, but please don’t read my mind. Please.” Sophie nodded and sighed a little, squeezing Keefe’s hand.
And then suddenly, for no reason, Sophie was standing up. Frozen under a will that wasn’t her own, she was terrified as she leaned in front of Keefe and felt her hands connect with his. She pulled him to his feet under a command that didn’t belong to her mind.
Then the spell was broken, and Keefe fell back against the wall as Sophie collapsed to the ground.
He…he was controlling her mind.
Grady’s face flashed through her mind and she gasped as a thought struck her.
Lady Gisela had transformed her son into a Mesmer so strong that he could control her.
Sophie Foster, the girl with the mind so strong that she had an almost unbreakable wall built up, had been controlled by Keefe.
And if he hadn’t been trying to move Elwin—then what could happen when he did?
Sophie blinked. Unable to form words, she blinked again. She stared at Keefe, trying to create a sentence to say to him—anything, anything. Keefe slowly met Sophie’s eyes, her heart breaking when she saw just how suddenly bloodshot his eyes were.
“So,” he croaked. “You’ve finally realized that I’m a monster, huh? That I shouldn’t be trusted and that I’m bad for you? You finally hate me? That’s about right. I knew whatever my—that woman did would change everything. I deserve it anyways.” Sophie had heard this speech many times before. Over and over Keefe would repeat it as if anything could actually make her hate him.
As much as she yearned to reassure him that she didn’t hate him, still no words came from her mouth. A small laugh crept up on her, and her lips formed a small half-smile. She shook her head, leaning forward on the tips of her toes. She strode over to Keefe quickly and knelt beside him, smiling still.
Keefe frowned and asked, “Sophie? Are—are you alright?”
Sophie finally regained control of herself and nodded, replying, “Yes. And Keefe, I cannot stress this enough, there is nothing in this world you could do to ever make me hate you. I promise. This doesn’t change anything whatsoever.”
Keefe’s face twitched ever so slightly before his lips twisted into a grimace and his eyes blinked harshly. Sophie pursed her lips a little, not in a show of impatience, but so her lips wouldn’t wobble and betray her calm composure.
Sophie held her arms out to Keefe, and he promptly wrapped his around her. She could feel his body shake as he buried his face in her shoulder, and she knew that by the time it was over her shirt would be soaked. But that was okay, because Keefe deserved much more than this. He didn’t deserve to have this happen to him, he didn’t deserve his family. What he did deserve was much more than a shoulder to cry on. He deserved mountains, worlds, and if not that, he deserved a safe place he could call home without being put in mortal danger every day.
Keefe shook harder against her body, and Sophie’s legs strained under the pressure of her position. She slid quickly to the ground and pulled him closer against her, not caring that she was sitting on the floors of Foxfire and having her shirt ruined. It had barely been a few hours that Keefe had been awake, and already he was going through way more than he should have to.
After a few more minutes, Keefe cleared his throat and pulled away, his face pale and blotchy. Sophie reached for his hand when she stood up, and when he was finally walking again, he didn’t let go.
When they reached the Healing Center, they found a frazzled-looking Elwin standing in front of the door.
Although he was probably mad, the first thing he did was ask Keefe if he was okay.
And Keefe groaned and hid his red face in his hands while Sophie told Elwin everything that had happened. She ran through the similarities it seemed to have to Grady’s Mesmer skills and how it seemed like it was a very powerful thing to be able to do.
Elwin nodded and ran his hand through his hair several times, and finally said, “So what you’re telling me is that he’s suddenly an untrained Mesmer as well as an Empath?”
Sophie nodded, glancing at Keefe, who seemed to have taken a sudden interest in the walls. When he noticed her looking at him, he offered a weak smile and a thumbs up before returning his gaze to the picture of Sophie above the beds.
Elwin’s head tilted as he mused, “Maybe Grady could help train him so he could control the power.” Keefe’s eyes widened as he locked eyes with Sophie.
Grady was notoriously not a very big fan of Keefe, but…
“If it will help Keefe, then we should do it. Anything to help him,” Sophie stated. Keefe snorted and put his hands up when two pairs of eyes flashed towards him questioningly.
“Hey,” he started, “I’m only thinking about the facts, here. We all know Grady does not like me, so what are the chances that he’ll actually take the time to train me in an ability that could potentially make him see me as more dangerous and bad for Sophie? They’re pretty low, that’s for sure.”
Elwin shook his head and countered, “No, actually, because if the Black Swan says it will benefit them and you especially, Sophie, then he’ll likely feel obligated to do it. It would be in everyone’s best interests.”
Sophie frowned. “Especially me? Why?” she asked.
“Because you spend a lot of time around Keefe, and you’re Grady’s daughter. If it benefits you he’s a lot more likely to do it,” Elwin explained.
Sophie nodded and glanced at Keefe. He was constantly running his hand through his hair, and his eyes were flickering from place to place throughout the room.
“Keefe,” Sophie said gently, “If you’re uncomfortable doing it, we don’t have to. I just thought it might help.”
Keefe gulped and whispered, “No, it will help. I’ll do it,” he added more confidently. “I’ll have Grady help me with my new…ability…if he’ll do it.”
And Sophie smiled.
If Grady agreed to help, this could be one step closer to him warming up to Keefe.
Grady narrowed his eyes as Sophie explained what she wanted him to do. She was pretty good at explaining all the good points about why it would benefit her, but she knew that Grady would fight his fight.
“So,” Grady started, “what you’re telling me is that Keefe is suddenly a very powerful Mesmer, and you want me to train him? And that he’s so powerful that he could control you with ease?” Sophie winced at the eerie calm in Grady’s voice.
Swallowing, she said, “If you helped him, maybe he would actually be able to control it more. I think it would be beneficial to everyone around him, including me.” Grady nodded and ran a hand through his hair.
“Okay,” Grady said, his voice gruff and annoyed. “Okay, I’ll help him.”
Sophie’s eyes lit up and she leapt forward to hug him. Grady returned the hug, but Sophie could tell that this wasn’t something he was happy about.
“Thank you,” she told him. And then she was flying to her bedroom and hailing Keefe as quickly as her body would allow.
“Keefe,” she said breathlessly as his face appeared. “He said yes. He’ll help you. Keefe—he said yes!” A tense, somewhat forced smile appeared on Keefe’s face. but Sophie was too lost in her moment of relief to notice.
“He can help you, and then everything will be under control, and then everything will be perfect, and then—”
“Woah, woah, Foster. Calm down. Why are you so excited?” Keefe asked, his eyebrows arched skeptically.
Sophie flushed a little and said, “Just happy that I convinced him to do something. That’s all.”
Keefe nodded, his eyebrows still perched atop his forehead. Sophie could tell he didn’t believe her, and for some reason she didn’t feel like revealing that she wanted Keefe and Grady to bond. Maybe it was because she felt like someone would immediately mess it up somehow. Now, she had absolute faith in them that they wouldn’t, but she just felt like something would go wrong if she told Keefe and Grady the real reason why she cared so much. So she didn’t, and just smiled until Keefe’s face relaxed into a smile as well.
When the pair finished hailing, Sophie went outside to check on the baby alicorns, Wynn and Luna. Lately, keeping them out of the other animals’ pens was a struggle. They would use their teleporting ability—that Sophie had just found out existed—and skip several feet at a time, just out of her reach. She spent most of her spare time outside, keeping them out of trouble.
But when she finally sprinted outside, she didn’t only see the alicorn family she loved so much.
There was someone else.
Sophie could see her out of the corner of her eye, and she chose to ignore her.
A small sigh sounded from Calla’s Panakes tree, and Sophie bit her lip to keep her swirling emotions in check.
She took deep breaths.
One, two, three, four, five, six…
Another small sound came from the tree, and Sophie slowly turned around on her heel, her previously enthusiastic energy rapidly disappearing.
Councillor Oralie, Sophie’s biological mother, let out a small sigh and walked over quietly.
“I suppose you were going to watch the alicorns, weren’t you?” Her voice was monotone and apologetic simultaneously.
Sophie stared Oralie in the eyes and replied confidently, “I was. Ever since I found out about their new teleporting abilities, I’ve been watching them to make sure that they don’t get into any trouble with the verminion and Verdi.”
Oralie nodded, softly flinching at the ice in Sophie’s voice. Sophie had been treated like dirt by every kid she’d ever gone to school with, and it wasn’t hard to inflect the same tone of voice on someone else. It tweaked her heart a little bit to be rude—she didn't exactly know why she was being so cruel—but it made her feel a little better to watch Oralie crumble a bit before they had to work together. After all, being the leader of Team Valiant ensured that Sophie was a part of the nobility, therefore she had to work with the Councillors on certain things that could help the citizens of the Lost Cities. And opening Oralie’s cache just happened to be one such thing that would probably benefit them—at least in Oralie’s eyes.
Sophie often wondered what kinds of things the Councillors hid away in their memory safes. What kinds of things were so terrible that they couldn’t even remain in the witnesses’ minds but couldn’t be destroyed either?
“Oralie,” Sophie asked softly, tugging at her eyelashes, “What do you think you might’ve put in your cache?”
Oralie’s expression triggered her stomach to flip and twist, her hands sweating in the silence of the moment.
“Oralie?” she asked quietly.
Oralie tore her eyes from the ground and looked into Sophie’s before her mouth twisted.
And then the older blonde elf sighed and began to talk.
“I don’t really know, Sophie,” she started. “It could be any number of things. It could be a secret that might wipe out the elves if in the wrong hands. It could be a memory so horrible that if I focus on it for too long, I won’t be able to function. It may be something so horrible…” Oralie cut off, wringing her hands.
“What?” Sophie asked, her voice barely a whisper against the swaying of the Panakes tree.
“It might break me, Sophie. It might be so awful, so guilt-wrenching, that it will shatter my mind. Why else would I lock it away? I don’t really want to remember, but it will help benefit my citizens…I hope.”
Sophie stayed silent, imagining pain and guilt so awful that she herself would want to lock it away.
Sophie shivered, involuntarily remembering blood glistening on her hands, slick and wet. The glint of metal, the raspy breath. Suddenly she watched as memories flashed in front of her eyes, scream after scream.
Sophie felt herself collapse as if she was in third person. She heard the dull thud as she hit the ground, but what she was really hearing was screams. Images flashed in front of her mind—everything was out of order. There were sneering faces, young, there was a building burning with roaring flames as she hurtled towards the ground, there was a piece of metal glinting on the side of her head, there was pain. So, so much pain. It enveloped her, her thoughts encased in red. Her head pounding frantically, her hand aching harshly, desperate gasps slipping through her lips. She couldn’t tell what was real and what wasn’t.
She heard voices, taunting, “You’ll never be good enough. You don’t deserve to be here. All you ever do is hurt everyone you love.” The person saying it kept changing, and then Keefe’s voice filtered through her mind and, sharp, said something that Sophie herself had been thinking.
“If it wasn’t for you, I would be happy.” Sophie was lost to the shrieks and memories slashing across her brain, and she couldn’t place whether or not it made sense.
Suddenly she was little again, she was with humans, and she watched in a daze as kid after kid taunted her and rejected her. She saw Mr. Forkle, heard breath ragged and slow. And she was back where she’d started, blood glistening on her hands, slick and wet. Metal shining brightly as everything faded to black.
The last thing she imagined as her eyes flicked shut was Keefe’s face, hurt and angry, sneering at her.
And with that, the world fell silent and Sophie lost herself to the darkness.
There were flashes of screams, of red, of fire. Face after face passed through her vision, but she couldn’t tell who was who. She didn’t know anyone.
There was a brown-haired boy, teal eyes tinted black, as he stared at her angrily from the other side of a room.
There was a boy with strawberry blond hair, periwinkle eyes glimmering as a dimple popped out, and then that same boy, face apologetic and suddenly horrified.
There was a blond boy, ice blue eyes twinkling, as he bit into a small elf-shaped cookie.
There was a boy with short, black-brown hair, looking at her for a painfully long time as his lips moved before heading away from her.
There was a boy with silver-tipped hair, his face turned away before something slammed into his head and he went away.
There was a girl, blonde braids woven through her hair, grabbing her by the arm and dragging her to a table. She could feel the group of boys she’d been sitting with look after her as the girl plopped into a chair and the scene shifted.
Another girl, her hair the same chocolate color and her eyes the same teal as one of the boys’, was lying in a pool of blood—was it hers?—surrounded by glass shards.
A girl with familiar silver-tipped hair looked at her as they locked hands and rose into the air, water everywhere.
And then…then what? More faces, suddenly coming and going even faster than those few that she’d been able to focus on just a moment ago. She felt as if there was a soft color seeping into her brain. Was that even possible? But—if it was actually possible—then what color was it? What was happening to her? She tried to rack her brain, but whoever she was, whatever was happening with her, she couldn’t remember.
A soft voice whispered in her mind, “Sophie.” Her mind flashed to an image of the teal-eyed boy before wondering who Sophie was.
Another wave of soothing color swept over her, and the face of the blond boy flashed across her mind, something clicking.
Keefe. His name was Keefe.
And the other boy…was it something like Fitz?
How did she know?
And then her mind flashed backward.
Fitz. His brother had betrayed him…and hadn’t she gotten his heart hurt? She had. It was her to blame for that. Her mind was saying so.
And…his name was Dex. The dimpled one. Oh, he’d gotten kidnapped. And…a scar? That was from the kidnapping. She’d been there, hadn’t she. It wasn’t a question. She knew, that whoever she was, she’d been there. There was no question of whether or not it was her fault. Of course it was.
Keefe. She remembered something seeping into him, shutting him down, hurting him. And had that been her fault also? Her mind wanted her to believe that even more, and so she did.
Wylie? Wylie! That was his name! His father was broken, somehow and his mother was killed. And it was her fault as well—they’d both been lost protecting her. No matter who she was, she wasn’t worth that.
And her mind tried to show her more, but she refused to see those horrible things. Suddenly she didn’t want to wake up, because she didn’t want to hurt any of these people. They looked so wonderful, so happy, and anything that had happened to them was her fault.
Something started to pull her back, something darker, and she panicked. So she pulled herself from the darkness.
“She’s okay, right?” someone said. It was the same boy who’d spoken before.
“Yes, Fitz, she’s alright.” Another voice spoke, and another face, similar to the boy's, flashed across her eyes. She could hear the obvious lie in the voice, but she didn’t understand. Were they talking about her.
Suddenly she realized that she could move, and she opened her eyes slowly, scooting to sit upright on the bed she was currently laying in. The face of the teal-eyed boy, Fitz, stared at her as she blinked.
“Sophie? Sophie? Are you alright? Hello?” He strode right in front of her and leaned close, causing her to shift uncomfortably and move away.
“Who…” her voice croaked, heavy. “Who’s Sophie?”
The little color that had been in the boy’s face before drained away.
“Who’s Sophie?” he repeated, his eyes wide. “No, no, no, no. No. No. This can’t be happening. No, no. Please. Sophie. You’re Sophie, remember?”
Sophie, that was an interesting name. So that was what everyone called her?
“I don’t remember, no. If it helps…I know who you are,” she said apprehensively. “I don’t remember much about you, but I know who you are.”
The boy—Fitz—frowned, furrowing his brow as he asked, “Then who am I?”
She replied quietly, “You’re Fitz.”
The man standing next to Fitz, one of the group of people surrounding her bed, spoke up. “So you’re saying that you remember Fitz, but not yourself?”
She nodded, looking down.
He tilted his head a bit and asked, “Is there anyone else you remember? Do you remember me?”
She studied him, eyes squinting, before she replied, “I know other people, but I probably couldn’t name them off of the top of my head. And you—I know that I’m supposed to know you, and I’m pretty sure you’re related to Fitz, but I’m not sure who you are, exactly.” The man nodded, a small smile on his face as if to try and cheer her up.
“Well,” he said, “there’s no reason to worry, we’ll just figure out who and what you know.”
Something tugged at her memories, and she asked, “Is there any reason why that sounds familiar? The worrying part?” The man’s smile grew a bit and he nodded thoughtfully.
“Well, Sophie, I’m not going to tell you my name, and nor is anyone else here. We’re going to see who you do remember, and then see who you can figure out from there. Would it make you feel more comfortable if most of us left?” She raised her head more for her eyes to scan the group. In the mass of adults was a couple in particular that seemed very, very familiar, but they were still strangers.
The man nodded. “Very well. There’s no reason to worry, everyone, we’re going to figure everything out.”
Her eyes widened and she exclaimed, “Your name is Alden, isn’t it? And you’re Fitz’s dad?” A broad smile grew on the man’s face as he nodded.
“See? She’s remembering things already. And, Sophie, I’ll be right back. One moment, please. Fitz, stay with her for now.”
She and Fitz nodded, and as soon as the adults had left, there was an awkward silence.
She opened her mouth and stuttered nervously, “Fi-Fitz, why are everyone’s eyes blue-ish?”
Fitz bit his lip, glanced toward the door, and said, “We’ll explain it later. Now, Sophie—wait, do you mind if I call you Sophie, or should I call you something else?” Fitz’s eyes swept across the room, fists clenched.
“You can call me Sophie,” she assured him. “What is it?”
Fitz bit his lip again, striding closer, as he asked, “Do you really not remember anything about yourself?”
This time, she bit her lip, responding, “All I know is that I know about some people, and one of those people is you.” A small smile tugged at the corner of Fitz’s lips.
“Tell me, Sophie, what memories do you have of me? Do you remember anything about us?”
Something painfully strong pulled at her thoughts, but she held back her wince and replied shakily, “The only memories I have are painful, and I’m not really in them. I may know who you are, but I don’t know you.”
Fitz’s hopeful smile fell as he replied, “That’s okay, Sophie. We’ll work on it.”
But she could tell it definitely wasn’t okay.
She wanted to apologize for it, but then the door opened again, and she braced herself for whatever was to come.
Alden walked back into the room, smiling. A fake smile forced itself onto her face as she adjusted herself a bit to her surroundings.
“So, what are we going to do to get my memories back?” she asked with uncertainty.
Alden replied quickly, “We’re going to have you talk to the people you remember. See, out of the people that you come into contact with regularly, you’ve known Fitz the longest. Only by a few days, of course, but nonetheless you might remember him the most.”
She frowned a little, looking at Fitz. She could tell that she knew him really well, she just didn’t know why. Another of the many things bothering her at that point in time was that she also didn’t know what to refer to herself as. She knew that she was a girl named Sophie, but calling herself Sophie just felt wrong. She didn’t know exactly what to call herself, though, so Sophie would have to do.
Snapping back into the present time, Sophie nodded.
Alden nodded and said, “Okay, should we see who else you remember? Try to name anyone at all—and if you can’t remember names, go with faces. It’s okay if it takes a while, that’s to be expected. There’s—”
Sophie grimaced and said, “Please don’t say that there’s no reason to worry. There obviously is.” A small smile quirked at the end of Alden’s lips as he nodded, cutting off his sentence.
Thinking back, a face popped into her head. It had dimples. Dimples…she remembered him. Dex! His name was Dex.
“Dex,” Sophie blurted out, happy when an even more relieved smile broke out on the pair’s faces. “He has dimples. His hair is like, uh, what’s the phrase…strawberry blond. And his eyes are blue-ish, like everyone else’s. He has a scar on his stomach from…was it a kidnapping?”
Before anyone could say something else, she continued, “Keefe. Blond hair, ice blue eyes. He was here, wasn’t he?”
Alden frowned and asked, “Yes. How did you know?”
Sophie furrowed her brows and said quietly, “He sent happy colors in my mind, somehow. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s what I remember.” Fitz nodded, pointing at her.
He said, “You’re right. That’s what he said he was doing—well, not exactly the color part, but the happy part.” Sophie nodded, relieved that she’d remembered two more people and actually gotten them right.
Alden spoke up and said, “Do you want me to bring him in? You can always say no, it’s your choice.”
Sophie nodded for the hundredth time and said softly, “Let him in.”
Alden left the room after sending a pointed glance at Fitz.
Fitz cleared his throat and awkwardly said, “What’s your favorite color?”
Sophie frowned, thinking. She looked at Fitz. His eyes were pretty, she supposed, and she may have thought that they were her favorite before—although she wasn’t sure.
But instead, she replied, “I liked Keefe’s eyes. They were really pretty.” Fitz raised his eyebrows and tugged at his sleeve.
“Okay,” he said. “Thanks.” Sophie’s eyes flashed towards the door as it opened, again when she felt that she ought to apologize to him for not remembering.
Keefe, the boy from her memories, strode through the door. Sophie felt much calmer than she had when she’d seen Fitz for the first time, and she didn’t flinch when he went right next to the bed.
“Sophie?” he asked tentatively. “Are you okay? What happened?”
Sophie winced and looked to Alden for help.
“Keefe,” Alden started cautiously, “you may want to sit down for this.”
And then Sophie tuned out the conversation—she didn’t want to hear them talk about her like she was some fragile, amnesia-ridden doll. She caught snippets of the conversation, but she closed her eyes and buried herself in her thoughts before she could hear anything else.
Someone tapped her shoulder and she flinched, her hands flying up as if to defend herself, before realizing it was only Keefe. His face was heartbroken as he pulled away.
Something caught in Sophie’s throat as she choked out, “I’m sorry. I’m so, so, so sorry.”
Keefe said, his voice much thicker than it had been before, “You don’t have to be sorry, Foster. It’s not your fault.” Foster?
Sophie frowned and voiced her thoughts. “Foster?”
Keefe replied quietly, “It’s your last name. I call you Foster a lot.” She smiled.
“I like that better than Sophie for right now,” she said shyly. “It seems more…right. I think I'll call myself that instead. You all can call me Sophie still, though.” In the back of her mind, she registered the slightly hurt look as it flickered over Fitz’s face, but she wasn’t herself enough to recognize it.
Sophie—no, Foster— smiled wider and continued, “I think I remember something else.”
All eyes focused on her face as she finished, “You used to call me ‘The Mysterious Miss F’, didn’t you?”
An infectious grin spread over Keefe’s face as he nodded quickly. Foster grinned back at him.
Alden cleared his throat as he said, “I may have an idea. So, Sophie, we’re elves, all of us. And we all have powers.” Foster nodded her head, giving him the go-ahead to continue. “One of those that you, Fitz, and I share is that we can read minds. We’re called Telepaths. You and Fitz actually share a special connection that makes you Cognates—which means that you can work together very easily to use your abilities, and it makes it more powerful.” That seemed plausible enough. It would explain why she had been literally sifting through her dark thoughts just before she’d woken.
Foster could feel an addition to his explanation coming, so she asked, “And you’re going to have someone use that power to somehow help me?”
Alden nodded and said, “I’m going to have Fitz go in your head and see what’s going on—to see how we can help. And Keefe can monitor your emotions—he’s an Empath, so he works with emotions—to make sure you’re okay.” Suddenly Alden’s jaw snapped shut, and he turned to stare at Keefe.
Keefe looked down sheepishly, mumbling, “I’m sorry. I’m trying my hardest to not do anything.” Alden nodded and gave him a reassuring smile before looking to Foster to see if she was okay with it.
She nodded, grinned, and declared, “Go ahead. Go and find something that can fix this.” So Fitz pressed his fingers to her temple, Keefe grabbed her hand, and Foster found herself easily retreating back into her thoughts.
Fitz’s voice echoed in her thoughts. Wow. It’s much easier to get into your thoughts than before. You used to have such a barrier up, and it may be because the connection has gotten stronger, but I think your wall isn’t the same.
Foster imagined herself building up a wall around her mind before Fitz’s voice shouted, I didn’t mean you were supposed to try and shut me out!
Sorry, she thought quietly.
It’s okay. I’m going to look around in your brain now, okay? You can leave if you want to, because this might take a while.
Okay, I will. Let me know if you need my help.
Foster pulled herself from her mind and relaxed into the pillows. She opened her eyes to find Keefe and Alden staring at her.
Before they could ask, she answered their unspoken questions. “He told me that he’d be fine. I’m staying out for now.”
Alden rubbed the back of his neck nervously and said, “Maybe you should go back in there just to make sure he’s okay. He always says that he can handle it, but we don’t know what to expect.” Foster nodded and closed her eyes again, entering her mind.
Fitz? I’m back. Your dad told me I should stay here just in case. There was no response.
Fitz?! Her mind cried out, panicked. FITZ?! She could feel a presence somewhere in her mind, and she raced towards it.
She could feel Fitz’s mind, perfectly fine, but in shock as he stared at the raging memories flashing in front of him.
Foster watched in horror as her nightmare replayed itself. Fire everywhere once again. Raspy breath, her hands wet with blood, cold metal slick with it. Ragged breathing, panic, as someone clamped a sweet-smelling cloth over her face.
Even more came back—she remembered being tied to a chair, and so much pain. She remembered the scar on Dex—she remembered the horror as she tried to reassure Keefe as he slipped into unconsciousness after being wrapped in shadows.
And then—what really shocked Fitz—it was him in a bed across from Foster. His eyes closed, he looked very, very injured. In the memory, Foster’s original self was starting to tremble. And then his eyes flickered open and the memory ended.
And then she felt Fitz retreating from her mind.
Foster pulled herself from her thoughts as well, meeting Fitz’s eyes.
Looking at him earnestly, she asked, “Are you okay?” Fitz looked at her, and in that moment, Foster almost winced from the look in his eyes. It was haunting—it was like he’d been physically injured. Heartbreak was even clearer on his face than before, and the answer to her question was obvious—he was not okay.
He didn’t answer, though, he just inquired miserably, “That’s all you remember?” Foster looked down and bit her lip, and as if by habit, she tugged at her eyelashes. As if by instinct, Keefe, from the other side of her, pulled her hand away from her face. Foster looked down and nodded slowly, painfully.
“Oh, Sophie,” Fitz started. “I’m so, so sorry. I don’t want to imagine what it’s like to be you right now—nearly every memory you have is awful.” Foster winced and shrugged, her hands itching to reach for her face.
Ignoring Fitz’s comment, she voiced another confusing thought she was having. “Why am I able to remember other people and not myself? Don’t people with amnesia not remember anything? What’s happening?”
Alden sighed and said, “I don’t know, Sophie. Truthfully, I have no idea. But this is going to get better. You’ll remember yourself. I promise.”
And then Foster, starting to shake, replied, “I feel like this is all my fault. Everything is my fault. It’s my fault you’re involved in this, it’s my fault that my life is forgotten, it’s my fault that everyone’s so upset. It’s all my fault, and there’s no way I can fix it!”
Something dark roared in her mind and she froze, shooting up, as more soothing colors shot into her brain. She brought herself back, focusing on the feeling of Keefe’s hand as she struggled to breathe in a normal pattern.
Foster was scared, she was utterly terrified. She had no idea who she was, and most of her memories were gone, left only with the most terrifying ones.
And then another, even more terrifying thoughts shot into her brain.
If she was able to remember those close to her, and even they didn’t trigger anything about her identity—would anything?
Foster felt herself falling back into her pillows, eyes wide with fright. She tightened her grip on Keefe’s hand as more calm entered her and she finally fell slack.
“Foster?” Keefe asked, his eyes wild. “Are you okay?”
Foster nodded and sent Keefe a weak smile. “I’m fine, Keefe. I just—I think I need to take a break. I know, I’m sorry. It’s just so stressful and I don’t know if—” Foster’s voice cracked and she stopped talking, looking into everyone’s eyes, willing them to understand.
Alden nodded sympathetically and reassured her, “Sophie, it’s okay. This has to be hard for you. If you want, you can just spend some time with Keefe and Fitz for now—to do whatever, you don’t have to go over memories and such.”
Foster smiled, answering with, “I’d like that.”
Alden smiled and walked out of the room after letting her know that he’d be coming back to check on her in a few hours, and that if she needed anything she could have Keefe and Fitz help her.
After a moment of silence, Keefe cleared his throat and said, his voice cracking, “So, what do you want to do?” He winced at the high noise his mouth made, trying and failing to regain his calm expression.
Foster felt the corner of her lips tug into a smile, and she replied, “I want to know more about you. And about what I can do. I don’t want to pressure my mind into remembering stuff, but I can’t figure out what else I would do.” Keefe nodded, glancing at Fitz. Fitz shrugged and looked back at Foster, who smiled comfortingly.
“Okay,” Fitz said slowly. “What do you want to know about us?” Foster raised her eyebrows. In hindsight, she probably should’ve considered that question when she’d asked to know them in the first place, but she would have to come up with something now.
“Uh,” she said, delaying her answer. “Maybe…what are your families like?” Then a dark thought tugged at the back of her mind, begging her to take it back.
Hurriedly, she amended, “No! I mean, uh, never mind. But before I ask anything else, how old am I?”
“Fifteen,” Keefe blurted out, flushing immediately. Foster narrowed her eyes a bit, confused by his behavior.
“Okay,” she dragged out. “How old are you guys?”
“I’m sixteen,” Keefe quietly replied.
“Seventeen,” Fitz said. Foster nodded, a hazy memory interrupting her thoughts.
“Oh!” she cried suddenly. “But you, Keefe, are in the same grade as him, right? You got moved up? Like me!” Keefe and Fitz locked eyes immediately and Foster knew that she’d said something.
“What?” she asked weakly.
“How did you know that you got moved up in school?” Keefe asked slowly.
Foster opened her mouth to speak, but promptly shut it. That was an extremely good question.
“I have absolutely no idea,” she responded. Fitz still looked suspicious—about what, she wasn’t sure—but he let the subject drop.
Foster yawned quietly as Fitz showed her again how he could levitate. The conversation had dulled a little, and she’d remembered vaguely that he could levitate, so he showed her. Keefe was sitting on the bed next to her—for some reason, she felt most comfortable sitting next to him. Little by little her head drooped until it slid onto his shoulder and dreams swallowed her whole.
These weren’t nightmares—nothing as heartbreaking as her odd flashbacks—but rather, they seemed to be innocent memories. Keefe’s face sparked with joy—it was the same flash of a thought that she’d had before. He was eating a cookie that she’d gone to great lengths to get. Foster wondered vaguely why it was important that she’d gone to get it, but she watched the scene play out. And then it changed, and she was in a very big hall.
There was a portrait of Fitz, Alden, the girl that looked like Fitz—was it something that started with a B?—someone that must have been Fitz’s mother, and probably his brother. The face of the brother made her slightly angry, but then her attention was focused on Fitz. She didn’t know why, but they were very close to each other after a few moments. She internally cringed as they leaned in—for some reason, seeing her with Fitz wasn’t something that she found very appealing.
Just as their lips were about to meet, Foster sprang back and the memory ended. She sighed in relief and embarrassment—she now knew why Fitz had asked if she’d remembered anything about them. There was a tiny voice in the back of her head telling her that they weren’t with each other anymore, thankfully.
She could hear voices, but she refused to wake up fully, so she kept her eyes closed and listened to the conversation.
She could hear Fitz saying, “How are you so calm about this!? I don’t understand! Sophie lost ALL OF HER MEMORIES, and you expect me to be CALM!? HOW CAN I BE CALM RIGHT NOW!?” The yelling made Foster’s face twitch slightly, and she could feel Keefe tightening his grip around her shoulders slightly.
Speaking of which, Keefe responded quietly, “Don't wake her up. And for the record, I don’t expect you to be calm. I just don’t want to freak her out. Do you think that I’m really calm about this? No, definitely not. And no matter how hard this version of her tries to hide it, Foster isn’t calm either. Just stop talking, okay? Just because you used to date her doesn’t mean that you have more right to freak out than everyone else. If you can’t be calm, then leave. This is going to be too stressful if you’re going to act like this.” Foster blinked her eyes open, staring into Keefe’s. He looked back at her, squeezing her shoulder slightly.
And then more memories rushed back. They were recent, she could tell. It was Keefe opening his eyes on a hospital bed and her heart pumping wildly. It was Fitz staring at her with loathing, and then they finally made up by breaking up. It was a walkway of fear, and then creatures, and light and shadow, and cuffs glowing around someone’s wrists. It was, suddenly, feeling so much hatred that she didn’t know what to do. This information overwhelmed her entirely, because she knew these events, but they didn’t connect to her at all.
And then, for what seemed like the first time in an eternity, she cried. She buried her face into Keefe and sobbed. Foster was shaking, shaking, shaking, shaking until she didn’t do anything else. Tears streamed down her face, and she felt Keefe tense as she cried even harder. She sobbed until no tears were left, and then she kept her face pressed to Keefe’s shoulder until he spoke.
“Foster, what happened?”
She managed to choke out, “I got some memories back. Some recent ones. I don’t know what to do with them. I dreamed some as well. The dreams were good, but these memories were not. Was there some sort of battle that ended up with you being unconscious, a black-and-silver-haired person having glowing handcuffs, and—Fitz—you and I breaking up?” Keefe hummed to reinforce her statements, and he used his finger to tilt up her chin so that she would look him in the eye. Foster felt her heart beating loudly in her chest as her face colored.
An unspoken question passed between them, and Foster nodded. She was okay for now.
Fitz cleared his throat and asked, “So, if you remember us breaking up, do you remember us being together?” Keefe looked away.
“Sort of,” she said cautiously. “I figured out that we dated at one point, but I’m just guessing that—well, we broke up, didn’t we?” Fitz nodded slowly, placing a hand on the back of his neck awkwardly.
“So,” he said softly, “I can tell that you’re extremely tired. Do you, uh, want to sleep now?”
Foster hesitated and then said, “Well, uh, sure. But I do have a question first. How long was I unconscious before I lost my memories?”
Keefe cleared his throat and muttered, “Two days.” Foster nodded, an empty feeling settling in her chest. Feelings of guilt streamed through her and her eyes lulled further.
“I’m going to sleep now,” she yawned quietly.
“Do you want anyone to stay?” Keefe asked her. She bit her lip and finally, after a long moment, nodded.
“Someone,” she whispered, before the darkness swallowed her whole.
Foster blinked open her eyes, yawning wide. The bed next to her was cold, she found, because when her hand reached out all she felt was a blanket.
Eyes fluttering, she propped herself up on her pillows to find the room completely empty. She really needed to use the bathroom now, so she walked to the one in her room and opened the door. She stepped inside, looking around. She knew that she’d probably seen it a million times before, but seeing it in her current mental state was refreshing and…oddly nostalgic.
When she was done, she walked back out to find Keefe standing there, tearing his hands through his hair as he looked frantically around the room.
She blinked and asked, “Keefe? What are you doing?”
He whipped around to face her and a look of relief briefly crossed his face before he answered, “Just making sure you were still here.” Foster raised her eyebrows but said nothing. It made sense that he would’ve been panicked, because after just getting her back from unconsciousness, albeit only partially, her disappearance would’ve been terrifying.
“So,” he continued, “I see you’ve found your way around?” He bit his lip, flushing an awkward shade of red. Foster frowned a bit before replying.
“Yeah. Around this room, at least.”
Keefe smirked a little and asked, “I was wondering if maybe you’d like to go outside and look around? Do some more exercises? Talk about the memories you got back?” Foster shrugged.
“Why not?” she replied, although her stomach churned. Being without her memories scared her, but there was no way she’d let Keefe know.
That is, until she realized that she couldn’t hide her emotions from someone who’s special talent is literally feeling them.
Keefe winced and said, clutching his stomach slightly, “All that fear is going to make me vomit. If it makes you that uncomfortable, then we don’t have to do it.”
“No, I’m fine,” she reassured him. “It’s scary, sure. I mean, I lost my memories. But it might help me get them back, so I’m ready to do it.” Keefe nodded, and a genuine smile crossed his face. The look seemed foreign to Foster, oddly. But then he was walking down the stairs, and she hesitated.
“We’re going now?” she asked, motioning to herself.
Keefe bit his lip. “Right. Yeah. I, uh, well, that’s where your clothes are, over there,” he said, motioning to a closet in the room. “I assume you have a hairbrush in your bathroom or something, so I'll just, uh, leave you be. Just call for me when you’re ready.” With that, he slipped out the door.
Foster padded slowly over the flower-covered carpet and opened the closet. She spotted a purple tunic and recognized it immediately, as if she’d been wearing it during an important moment in her life. There was a chance she had been, but she didn’t remember it.
So she grabbed it and a pair of leggings and walked to the bathroom. After she put it on, she looked at herself in the mirror. Her mind automatically thought back to the almost-kiss that she’d shared with Fitz, and the memory replayed in her head. So that was when she’d worn the tunic before. Grabbing her hairbrush, she considered her hair in the mirror.
She wanted to compare it to something—it was on the tip of her tongue. But what was it?
Shrugging to herself, she dragged the brush through her tangled mess of blonde hair until it looked almost presentable enough for outside of her room.
She walked to the door and went downstairs, thinking. What had she been about to compare her hair to?
But when she walked into the big living room, her eyes focused on two oddly familiar people standing next to Keefe. One of them was a man with blonde hair, like her, and one of them was a woman with reddish-brown hair. Both of them had some shade of blue eyes. She frowned. Why did everyone have blue eyes, but not her? A small smile tugged at the corner of Keefe’s lips.
“Well, Foster, it’s because your genes were altered and you have the same eyes as an alicorn,” he said, smirking wider. Foster turned bright red. She’d said that out loud.
“Sophie?” the woman asked. Foster turned to her, and something pulled at the back of her mind.
“Your name starts with an E, doesn’t it?” she asked. The woman nodded, staring at her with sad eyes. “And yours with a G?” Foster asked the man. He nodded as well.
I, uh, I don’t remember either of you. I’m sorry,” she said, genuine compassion prickling through her mind as she felt that guilty feeling creeping over her again. She felt a small spark in the back of her mind and focused her attention on Keefe again.
“Those are your adoptive parents, Foster,” he told her quickly. Foster’s mouth dropped a little. She didn’t remember her own parents?
And then she did.
She was standing there, younger, in the middle of what seemed to be some type of court. For some reason, both Fitz’s parents and…well…her adoptive parents were both there with her. She was looking back and forth between them.
Then she was lying awake, fire burning through her mind. The woman came in and helped her sleep.
Then she was at a fancy building, wearing a shiny teal necklace and heart. The two people were on either side of her. The vision played out until they were inside, and then something clicked. Edaline and Grady. Those were their names. Her adoptive parents.
Her eyes flickered back open and she found three very concerned people staring at her.
Keefe asked slowly, “Foster, are you going to explain why you just had your eyes closed for a solid minute, or do I need to assume that you’re not okay?” Foster flushed. She hadn’t taken into account how weird it would look when she just stood there like she was sleeping.
“I was trying to see whether or not I could remember their names. I ended up being able to, I think,” she explained hastily. Keefe’s eyebrows shot up.
“Okay, so what are their names?” he inquired.
Foster gulped and said, “Grady and Edaline, I believe. Right?” Happy smiles broke out on everyone’s faces and she felt extremely relieved.
“How did you get our names back?” Edaline asked.
“Well,” Foster started. “I got a couple of memories back, too. I don’t exactly know what I was doing during them, though. There was some sort of court, and Fitz’s parents and you guys were there. And then there was some sort of memory where these eye drops were used? I didn’t see it long enough to know exactly what it did, but I’m pretty sure it helped me to fall asleep. And then there was this weird sparkly place, and I was wearing a dress. I don’t know. But I figured out your names, at least.” Everyone nodded slowly, and she could tell that their brains were whirring. How was she getting back her memories, and why were they such fragments of scenes?
If she couldn’t even get a memory long enough to explain to her why she was in the middle of a court, then what was she supposed to do to get all of her memories back?
Foster tugged at an eyelash, flicking it away. It felt good, almost like a stress-reliever.
“I see you still haven’t stopped doing that,” Grady said, smiling a little.
Foster frowned. “Doing what?” she asked.
“Pulling out your eyelashes. I don’t know why, but you always do that whenever something’s wrong,” he clarified. That would make a lot of sense. It explained why Keefe had automatically reached to make sure that she didn’t pull out any more when she’d done it the first time.
It made her feel even more guilty that all of these people knew her and everything about her, but she didn’t know herself. She could see that it was hurting them—how they’d managed to stay calm for her, she had no idea.
And then she locked eyes with Keefe. He was smirking slightly, staring back.
“Oh, pineapple,” Foster said.
Keefe’s look vanished and he said, “Pineapple what?”
“It’s what I was going to compare my hair to,” she whispered.
And then she blacked out, and the voices screaming as her head hit the floor were nothing but distant breaths.
Foster was floating. There was black all around her, and memories she didn’t even know she had. It was like watching distant scenes play out on a giant movie theater with millions of screens but no separate rooms.
She felt connected to them, but she couldn’t place herself back into them.
That is, until she could.
She was Sophie Foster. She had once believed that she was a human, but she was really an elf. An elf with tons and tons of powers, responsibilities, and reputations. And most of all, problems.
Problems that people had caused her, problems that she caused herself, and mostly problems that she’d caused other people to deal with. And then it clicked.
The memory loss—it was her mind’s way of protecting itself against the break. The break that she could very well feel herself becoming more likely to have. With every passing moment, guilt overwhelmed her for no apparent reason. It was all of the guilt that she hadn’t been able to feel for the past few days.
She felt her mind scream out, call toward someone, but she couldn’t tell who. She felt her thoughts click into someone else’s and she thought loudly, The memory loss was protecting me from breaking. If I don’t make it back, I’m sorry.
And then she kept floating.
Memories replayed—from her old life, her new life, and that period of time where she hadn’t remembered anything. She saw Keefe’s eyes, his lips curved into a smirk, his hair styled to its trademark perfection. It was when they’d first met. And then it changed to that one happy memory that she’d had even when she lost everything else—it was Keefe trying human cookies. She felt her consciousness laugh, remembering him complaining that they were dry. To be honest, after a life filled with delicacies like butterblasts and mallowmelt, she supposed they would’ve seemed dry. And then it changed to Keefe’s flushing, wide-eyed face after she’d talked to him just moments before—whatever this was.
Had it been moments before? How long had she been in this world of blinding photographic snippets of her life? Seconds? Minutes? Hours? Days? Weeks? Months? She didn’t know. She knew that dreams and such could stretch out time in your brain, make it feel longer or shorter, but then could this be considered a dream? Remembering a random fact, that humans had eight minutes of brain activity left after they died, Sophie wondered if it worked the same for elves.
Was this her eight minutes?
Was this why it felt like she was stuck in her mind?
Or—it terrified her even more to think—was this just her mind’s way of telling her that she was breaking and there was nothing left to stop it?
And then there was a sound.
It was Keefe’s voice, shrieking, panicked, “FOSTER? FOSTER? ARE YOU OKAY? YOU HAVE TO BE OKAY!” Somehow it pulled her back from her mind, and she wanted to throw herself forward, upright, but it couldn’t. This—this was sleep paralysis, she supposed. She was awake, and aware, but she couldn’t move. And so, paralyzed, she willed her brain to wake up. And then her finger twitched.
And she could move again.
Her eyes flung open and she ripped her head from the—bed? She was sitting on the bed. How long had she been passed out?
She whipped to the left, ignoring the giant headache pounding through her skull as she met Keefe’s frenzied eyes. The first thing he did was throw himself at her, and Sophie met him halfway. She wrapped her arms around him, as weak as she was, and held him until he stopped trembling.
“You’re okay,” he whispered, and Sophie’s heart broke tenfold. How long had he been worrying?
When he pulled away, Sophie was shocked to see tears glistening on his face. She bit her lip, holding back a few of her own.
“How long was I out this time?” she asked, fearing for the worst. Did Keefe look older? Did he?
“A week,” he mumbled, making her sigh in relief. “A week. The first six days you were completely unresponsive, and then today you managed to get something to me. You told me something about your amnesia and a break, and how you were sorry if you didn’t make it back, so I panicked. I don’t know how, but you made it back. How?”
“I heard your voice,” Sophie answered truthfully. “You were calling me, and you told me that I had to be okay. So I was okay.” Keefe’s legs wobbled a bit and he collapsed into her bed. She figured that this must have been just as stressful for him as for her—probably more, actually. She’d been worried about herself, something that she could deal with—but it was the second time in two weeks that she’d passed out. Keefe must’ve been absolutely terrified.
“I’m so, so sorry,” she whispered, looking down. “I cannot believe that I put you through all of that.”
“Foster,” Keefe said slowly, taking her chin in his hand. “Look at me. Sophie, look at me. Listen very carefully, alright? This is not your fault. This will never be your fault. You’re back, are you not? And it doesn’t matter if you have your memories or not, you’re okay.”
Sophie muttered quietly, “I do have my memories back. That’s why I’m sorry. I—I don’t know. I’m so, so sorry—” and then Keefe engulfed her in a hug again. She shook, letting out all of the tears she’d never been able to manage before. Keefe pulled back, staying a few mere inches from her face.
He looked like he wanted to tell her something, but instead he asked, “Should I tell the others that you’re awake?”
“I would,” she murmured quietly, wondering what it would be like when she saw everyone again, but with her full memories.
“But first,” she continued, “I need to know who knows about my amnesia.”
“Uh,” Keefe said, “Me, Fitz, Alden, Grady, Della, Edaline, and the Black Swan. The council only,” he clarified hastily when he saw Sophie’s expression change. “We were going to tell Dex, and then things kind of got out of hand. Councillor Oralie may know, because of Team Valiant, but I don’t know whether or not they’ve told her yet.” Sophie nodded, inwardly slightly angry. How could Oralie know? It didn’t seem like the kind of thing that she’d be entitled to find out.
“Okay. You can tell them that I’m awake,” she mumbled, bracing herself for whatever endless babying and simultaneous questioning she would go through.
Keefe nodded, scrunching up his face apologetically as if to say “yeah, this isn’t going to be fun, sorry,” and then walked downstairs. And then she heard footsteps. More footsteps. Growing closer. Getting louder. There seemed to be more than a few—Keefe’s she could pick out, and her parents’, but there were still more. Who else could it be?
And then they walked in.
She’d been right about the people she thought she heard, but there were certainly more than she was expecting. Mr. Forkle, Alden, Della, Fitz. And—and Oralie?
Keefe winced at Sophie’s murderous expression when she caught his eye, and he mouthed, “Don’t blame me. I didn’t know she was here. I also didn’t invite everyone up here.” She nodded, looking at the ceiling as she sucked in a sharp breath.
“You’re awake,” Fitz commented, rushing to her side.
”Oh, really?” Sophie retorted, slightly annoyed that they had told Oralie. Only Mr. Forkle and Oralie herself knew why Sophie was so livid, but she couldn’t help herself with her sarcasm. It made her feel slightly better.
Fitz looked taken aback. “Sophie? Are you okay? Did something happen?” Sophie pinched her arm slightly, scolding herself for being rude to him for no reason.
“No, I’m fine. Just stressed,” she sighed, looking directly at Mr. Forkle. He was looking at her, eyebrows raised. She turned her head.
“So, my memories are back. I, uh, well, the amnesia was my mind’s way of keeping itself from breaking, but I’m fine now,” she said, giving the crowd around her a halfhearted smile. It wavered when her gaze reached Oralie, but she quickly snapped her focus away from the Councillor.
Mr. Forkle stepped in front of Oralie and asked, “I’m glad your memories are back, Miss Foster, but I do have a question for you. How do you know that for sure? That your mind was going to break.”
Sophie hesitated, rolling thoughts to the tip of her tongue, before she answered, “Well, it does make logical sense, doesn’t it? I mean, rather than have my mind break, my defense system that usually heals other people erased the memories so that I wouldn’t feel any more guilt. I did feel intense amounts of it, but because I couldn’t place myself into any of the situations I’d supposedly been in, it didn’t affect my mind and wellbeing whatsoever. That kind of makes the most sense.” Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Keefe’s glance shoot around the room. He looked really fidgety and nervous, like he was struggling to contain himself.
“Keefe?” Sophie called, worried. “Are you okay?” She watched him spare a glance at Grady before nodding. He nodded back at Keefe.
“I’m fine, Foster, just, uh…” Keefe fumbled for words.
“Keefe and I are going to step outside for a bit, okay? We’ll come back in a moment, I just have to answer a question he had for me. He was rather curious, and he doesn’t like to be left out of the loop when I have things to explain,” Grady said quickly. They exited Sophie’s room and she heard their footsteps fade away before she remembered Keefe’s new ability. He’d been doing extremely well for that recent period of time when Sophie hadn’t had her memories, but it really hadn’t been that long. With a start, she realized that her defense mechanism had kept her unconscious longer than it had actually worked as it had intended.
“Miss Foster?” Mr. Forkle addressed her, probably following her train of thoughts. “I asked you whether or not you knew what triggered the memory loss? All that Oralie remembers is that you were talking about her cache and you passed out.”
“Oh,” Sophie thought carefully. “I was actually feeling guilty. We were talking about what might’ve been in her cache, and then she was talking about memory breaks, and then I had some sort of partial break where lots of awful things came into my thoughts and I passed out. That’s kind of what I remember.” Everyone stole a glance at Alden, who frowned.
“What?” he asked, confused.
Della hesitated and then replied, “Your mind broke. What happened beforehand?” Alden’s jaw tensed and he rubbed the back of his neck, thinking, as everyone stared at him.
“Well,” he started, jumpstarting everyone’s focus, “I was definitely feeling guilty. I was thinking about Prentice and Wylie, and I know that it wasn’t the most calm of things. I was definitely guilty, and that actually sounds pretty familiar to me.” Sophie sucked in another long, sharp breath, her heart pounding. Blood rushed into her ears and breathing became impossible as she froze.
Okay, so at my school I’m in the drama club and we’re doing the first production of our play in a week and a half(ish) so I’m not going to be able to update as often. Practices go until 6 and I’m swamped with homework! Sorry for the delay, but updates should return normally in mid-April (because for some reason, literally every concert and performance ever is in march). Sorry again!
okay forget the play, because every single activity has been canceled at my school. yesterday the school gave us the day off because someone visited with corona and they almost shut down the school today. they made us take everything we needed home and there was a faculty meeting and half of my homeroom was sobbing. it didn’t end up closing, luckily, but now everyone’s panicked so that’s great. i know the update is super late but i’ll work on it tonight.
Okay, so I’m definitely not making any promises, because look how that turned out last time. What I am going to say is that I really haven’t had any motivation to write recently, and I’m sorry about that. As many of you know, Shannon Messenger is currently writing “Unlocked,” which has Keefe’s perspective in it. I’m going to start writing chapters from Keefe’s point of view when I feel that it would fit into the story—-but this also means that Keefe is alive in the canon story, which is amazing. Okay, well, I’ll be writing (hopefully) to get you the story today or tomorrow!