The cold water is a stark contrast to the hot sand beneath my feet, but I don't mind. My focus is on the sky, on the display of colors above me. Casting hues of reds, purples, oranges on the water below. I find myself wishing I could stay here forever, but I know soon I will have to wake up.
"Sedalia needs you."
I stand, brushing the sand from my pajama pants and turn to the woman. She stands a short distance from me, hood drawn over her head so I can't see her face. The wind causes her cloak to billow.
"You keep saying that but I don't even know what Sedalia is. It's not a place I've ever heard of, I looked.”
Before she can say anything else a gust of wind blows sand in my eyes. I blink, and my ceiling greets me.
I close my eyes again, throwing my forearm over my face and sighing. For the last month I've been seeing the same woman. She talks about this Sedalia and how it needs me but never explains more than that.
I chalk it up to watching too many movies before going to sleep, rolling onto my other side to hopefully fall back asleep.
My cell phone chiming makes that dream impossible. Unsurprisingly, it is a text from Gemma, asking if I want to go to the bar with her. With a groan I pull the phone from the charger, squinting against the light in my eyes. She doesn’t give me time to reply, my phone ringing almost the second I open the text.
“Wake up Love Dove! It’s almost seven pm we gotta go now if we wanna be able to get good seats! We really need to get you a better job, during the day. Wake up! I’ll be at your house in twenty-five minutes!”
Without waiting for a response she hangs up. I lay in bed for another minute before forcing myself up. It’s better for me in the long run if I get myself ready before she shows up.
True to her word, exactly twenty-five minutes later there is a brief knock on my door followed by Gemma barging in. Sometimes I regret giving her the spare key to my apartment. “Oh good you’re dressed!” She says when she sees I’m in the middle of putting my locs into a bun.
I nod, glancing over at her. She’s got on a wine colored crop top and black mini-skirt. How she manages to walk in her thigh-high heels I’ll never know. Her ginger hair is done in her signature wash-and-go, the front part in bantu knots.
“You’re not doing make-up?” She questions, plopping onto my bed. Not that she has much on either; black lipstick that she somehow manages to make work and deep purple eyeshadow that makes her brown eyes pop. Gemma almost never wears foundation, either, saying she actually likes the way her freckles look and she doesn’t want to cover them up.
“You know I can’t do make-up.” I say, finally deciding to throw my hair into two space buns. Gemma stands, coming over to where I am at my vanity and digs through my sorry excuse for a make-up bag, producing eyeliner and mascara.
“C’mere, I’ll do this really quick. You look so cute with winged eyeliner I wish you’d do it more often. You know you can watch youtube tutorials.”
“Yeah yeah. You know I’m not going to. I have better things I could be doing with my time.”
“Sleeping doesn’t count, Dove.” Gemma huffs, hitting me on the shoulder. “Alright, done.” She takes a step back, admiring her handiwork. I, too, look in the mirror pleased with my appearance. The liner she’s done accentuates my eyes perfectly.
I adjust the black dress I’ve decided to wear, tugging it so it sits a bit further on my thighs. It’s something I’ll be doing all night. The problem with tight fitting skirts and dresses.
Gemma insists I have a few in my closet though, so I deal with it.
“Stop that.” Gemma scolds, swatting at my hand. I frown at her when she pokes at my thigh, causing it to jiggle. “Leave the dress up, maybe you’ll actually get some action tonight.”
“Oh my God Gemma!” I tug my dress once more for good measure before shoving my best friend toward the door. “Let’s go.”
Thankfully the bar isn’t crowded when we get there, and Gemma is able to find us seats at the bar. After ordering our drinks she swivels to face me. “Anything new since we last saw each other?”
“You mean yesterday?” I laugh. “Not really. I dreamt about that woman again. She kept saying the same thing. “Sedalia needs me.” I don’t get it. I’d think it were a fever dream but--”
“You’ve never been sick.” Gemma takes the drinks from the bartender, thanking her before sliding mine toward me. She takes a sip before saying, “You think you’re stressin’ because your big two-five is coming up?”
I shake my head. My twenty-fifth birthday is still two months away, and really nothing is going to change in my life other than being able to rent a car, so there’s no reason for me to stress. “No. I think I just need to stop watching anime before bed.”
I raise my cup to take a sip when something across the bar causes me to pause. Rather, someone. The woman who I’ve been dreaming about for nearly a year now is sitting directly in my line of vision, watching me. Though I’ve never seen her face before now, I know without a doubt that it’s her.
“It’s her. The woman from my dreams.”
Gemma turns, looking in the same direction as me. She turns back to me with a smirk. “Are you going to go ask the ‘woman of your dreams’ for her number?”
“Shut up.” I push her on the shoulder, unable to tear my eyes away as the woman stands and leaves out of the back door. I stand immediately, ignoring Gemma’s questioning gaze. Something in me is pushing me to follow her, so I tell Gemma I’ll be right back before going toward the same door she disappeared out of.
It’s almost as if she really has disappeared, as I see no sight of her when I make it outside. I scratch my head, frowning. She came out here, clear as day. So why is there no sign of her?
The wind blows, bringing a chill with it and I wrap my arms around myself, shivering. It felt as if I was supposed to follow her, but if she’s not out here there’s no point in freezing to death.
I turn to go back inside, gasping and jumping back a step when the woman comes into my line of vision. Though it’s not only the fact that she’d somehow gotten directly behind me without me hearing that startles, but that this woman looks exactly like me.
Same brown skin, same honey colored eyes. The only difference is the hair; where mine has been loc’d for the last seven years, her dark brown falls around her shoulders in tight ringlets.
“Woah.” I breathe, fully aware I’m staring and unable to help myself. “It’s like looking in a mirror.”
“Do you know who I am?”
The question confuses me enough to break me out of my awe and I frown. How could I know someone I’ve only just met.
“But we haven’t just met, have we Pandora? In fact, we’ve met almost every night for the last year.”
“How do you know that name?”
The woman sighs, holding out her hand. While I am hesitant, that same pull that caused me to follow her outside is compelling me to take her hand. As if sensing my hesitation she says, “we will only be gone but for a moment.” I nod, reaching out to take her hand.
The moment I do we are standing in a field of flowers, the wind no longer ripping through my clothes. I spin around, eyes wide. Wildflowers of every color meet my eyes at each turn, going on for miles. “Woah.”
“Pandora, we need to talk.”
At the sound of that name I turn to face the woman again. “Why do you keep calling me by my middle name? No-one calls me that. My name is Dove.”
She sighs again, and I get the feeling I’ve somehow disappointed this woman. “She couldn’t even be bothered to raise you with the correct name?” She’s muttering under her breath, arms crossed in front of her.
“What do you mean? I’ve always been Dove.”
“No sweetheart, that’s the issue. Your name, the one you were given at birth, is Pandora. Pandora Dove VonMerlyn.”
“Von...what? It was weird enough knowing my middle name was Pandora, but now you’re telling me I’m a Merlin?”
“Not Merlin, VonMerlyn, though I suppose you may be related to him in some capacity. You are a VonMerlyn, Pandora. And the last of your bloodline.”
I’m shaking my head before she’s finished talking. Merlin. As in magic. There is no way I have any sort of magic in me. Magic isn’t real. And I’m as ordinary as they come.
The woman clicks her tongue. “You are not just magic, Pandora. You are the last of a royal bloodline. And now, your kingdom needs you.”
“My king--I’m a princess?? No, this is insane. I’m just a random nobody. I’m not a freaking princess. And I’m definitely not magical. That doesn’t make sense.”
The woman looks annoyed. “Haven’t you ever wondered why you’re allergic to garlic, and have to wear sunglasses even with an overcast?”
“Your crankiness during a full moon? Ache and pains? Heightened senses?”
“...your love of swimming? Singing?”
“You have vampire blood. Werewolf. Siren, it’s all in you, Pandora.”
“How do you know all of this?”
The woman takes a step toward me, touching a finger to my forehead. A scene of what looks to be her holding a baby me flashes before it is gone. “I am a witch. I’m also your grandmother.”
Head spinning, I fall to a heap on the ground. Vampire. Werewolf. Witch?? This woman, my grandmother, is telling me I am not the human I was raised as. That my name isn’t really my name. That I’m a freaking princess?
“Wait.” I tilt my head to look at her. “You said I’m the last of my line but you’re my grandma. And I was raised by my aunt.”
“Yes, your mother’s sister. Who is, in fact, human. Your mother as well. While I am your father’s mother, I cannot hold the throne as I am a VonMerlyn in name only. Tradition dictates that the heir marries someone of supernatural blood, and as a way to avoid taking the throne your father married your mother, a human. Of course, we have picked a suitable partner for you given the circumstances. My husband, your grandfather, then had to remain on the throne, but he has passed away and I’ve been searching for you for the last year.”
“But you said so yourself, my mother is human. I was raised human, I can’t take the throne, I have no supernatural abilities. Not only that but how can I lead a kingdom I know nothing about?”
“We can’t know that for sure. You did not receive the proper training so for all we know you could have abilities you just don’t know how to tap into.” The woman holds out her hand, helping me to my feet. “We can go over the rest when we return to Sedalia.”
“Return? Wait, I can't just leave! I have a job and people who’d miss me if I suddenly disappeared.”
“I will give you two weeks to get your affairs in order. After that, I am coming to take you back to your rightful home.” There is a gust of air and we are once again in the back of the bar. The woman is nowhere to be seen.
I rush back inside, Gemma still sitting exactly where I left her. It seems as if no time has passed, and though that probably should freak me out more than it is, after everything that has just happened I pay it no mind. “Gem. I want to leave.”
“Now? We just got here.” Gemma looks pointedly at our barely touched drinks.
“I know I know but, ugh I’ll tell you back at my apartment. Let’s just go.”
Gemma is pacing, and has been ever since we returned to my apartment and I explained everything that happened with my grandmother.
“So let me get this straight.” She says, stopping to look me dead in the eye. I flinch at the intensity of her stare, nodding for her to continue. “You are a princess to some magical land God knows where. Your grandmother, who you didn’t know existed until now and who’s been visiting you in dreams wants you to take your place as Queen and you’ve got two weeks to get your life together?”
“That’s the gist of it, yeah.”
“So...you gonna go?”
“What do you mean "you gonna go"? You know, this is how people in horror movies get killed.”
“Finding out you’re a long lost princess? This isn’t a horror movie, Dove, you’re living an actual fairy tale! You have to go!”
I fall backward onto my bed groaning. Of course Gemma finds all of this a lot more exciting than it is. It isn’t her who is finding out her entire life has been a lie. Or that she’s engaged to some man she doesn’t know in order to take the throne of a kingdom she’s never heard of.
“I’ll go with you.”
“You’ll what now?” I’d tuned her out but at that I shoot up, blinking at my best friend.
“It’s not like I have any family here, and definitely none who’ll miss me if I leave. Plus, I know you. You’re gonna stress about this and drive yourself to an early grave. It’ll be better if you have someone you know there.”
“I can’t ask you to uproot your entire life to come with me.”
“You aren’t asking, Panda.” Gemma is the only one who calls me by my middle name, well I suppose my first name now. It’s something I will have to get used to hearing.
She throws an arm around my shoulder, pulling me so we are both laying on the bed. “I’m offering. You’re about to go through a bunch of big changes and you need someone there with you. What kind of best friend would I be if I let you go through it alone?”
“A sane one?”
Gemma laughs, rolling away from me and standing, announcing that she is going to raid my alcohol stash since we left the bar so quickly.