Sobs drifted into Larah’s bedroom. She put down her book and walked toward Melinda’s study. The Head Mistress sat looking out the window, her hands caressing the curled form of Passion, their sixteen-year-old cat.
Larah approached her desk. “Mother, is something wrong?”
Melinda turned and looked at her. Tear tracks glistened on her face. “Passion is dying.”
Larah had noticed her getting slower over the last few days and that she had lost a lot of weight over the last year, yet the words still made her chest tighten. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Melinda confirmed. “She’s too weak to move; nothing more can be done.” Her hands slowly stroked its long golden fur. She stared at the floor before speaking, “Do you know how I got her?”
Larah shook her head. “No, you’ve always had her.”
“Passion was originally Anya’s cat, who came to be mine when Anya passed away. That happened the same night you came to me, and I became Head Mistress.” She paused as her eyes became unfocused. “I gained and lost much that night.” Shaking her head, she continued. “Anya was my mentor and my best friend. Other than my memories, all I have left are Passion – and you.” She looked at Larah, lips trembling. “And I love you both so much,” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Yet, it’s so painful to lose another piece of Anya, once again.”
Hurriedly wiping her eyes, Larah rushed over. Oh, how she wished to take the pain away. The older woman shook with sorrow as Larah embraced her tightly, wishing the distance between them could disappear.
Finally, Melinda took a breath, cupped Larah’s chin, and kissed on the nose. “It’s okay.” Together they looked at the cat.
Melinda scooped Passion up and laid her on the window sill. “I will let her watch the sunset as she often does one last time.” Leaning over, Melinda kissed the feline on the head and gave her a last pet. “Goodbye, my dear. You will always have a place in my heart.” With that, she left the study.
Larah walked over, stroked Passion’s soft fur, and felt the weak but still noticeable purring. Sniffling back tears, she recalled Passion’s antics and how Melinda had always appreciated the cat’s soft, quiet presence. Glancing up, she watched the sun setting over the waters of the Gulf.
Later that night, as Larah lay in bed, the image of the Thrush chick flashed into her mind. She sat up, considering it, and then raced into the study and sat next to Passion. Gently, she touched the cat’s feeble body and still felt a slow, hesitant pulse. She closed her eyes, placed both hands on the animal, and mouthed the words of the mending spell. A blue glow surrounded her hands, her fingertips grew cold, and heat raced through her bones as a scream ripped out of her lungs.
* * *
Wringing her hands, Melinda stared at the unconscious form on the bed. Why did Larah do it? She’d been told never to try a mend spell on an animal. The infirmary nurse laid a hand on Melinda’s shoulder.
“Will she survive?” Melinda asked, holding her tears back.
“If she wakes up, I believe so,” the nurse said. “But she should be dead.”
Melinda blinked. “Why do you say that?”
The nurse fixed her with a serious expression. “No one has ever survived what she did.”
“What do you mean?” Melinda asked.
“She almost brought your cat back from death. The animal would be alive if it could have survived being called back.”
“That is not possible,” Melinda replied as a chill raced down her spine. Such capabilities belonged only to the immortal Caretakers or the practitioners of the darkest magic.
“Under other circumstances, I would agree. Regardless, Larah survived because she had passed out before the pull of death reached her. Otherwise, she might have died too.” A groan rose from the bed. Melinda turned from the nurse and leaned close.
The young girl opened her eyes, “Mother, what am I doing here?” She noticed Melinda’s tears. “Please don’t cry.”
Melinda smiled, “These are tears of joy, my dear.” But even as she squeezed Larah’s hand, a shudder ran through her. She had almost lost Passion and Larah on the same night.
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