Authors: Farah Oomerbhoy
The Last of the Firedrakes
Wise Ink Creative PublishingMinneapolis
THE LAST OF THE FIREDRAKES © copyright 2016 by Farah Oomerbhoy. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form whatsoever, by photography or xerography or by any other means, by broadcast or transmission, by translation into any kind of language, nor by recording electronically or otherwise, without permission in writing from the author, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in critical articles or reviews.
ISBN 13: 978-1-940014-70-8
Library of Congress Catalog Number: 2015944123
Cover and interior design by Wise Ink
Wise Ink Creative Publishing
837 Glenwood Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55405
The Last of the Firedrakes © Farah Oomerbhoy. All Rights Reserved, except where otherwise noted.
“Get up!” said a familiar but thoroughly irritating voice. “Get up, you freak, and stop that awful shrieking.”
I sat up in my bed, sweat pouring from me, my heart beating so fast it was as though I had just run a race. I knew it was only a dream, but it always felt so real, as if I had really lived through it.
I turned my head to see my angry cousin Cornelia glaring straight at me. Her perfect blonde hair was neatly brushed and pulled back with a silver headband. She was already dressed for school, with her uniform and coat on.
“It’s eight o’clock, Aurora,” Cornelia said. “Get up. We are so late. I don’t want to get into trouble because of you again. We already missed the bus; Ms. Holden is going to have a fit. And, for God’s sake, stop this screaming thing that you do every night. I just can’t bear it anymore.” She huffed and preened at herself in the mirror.
“Maybe you need to see a shrink,” she added as an afterthought, glancing at me and turning back to her perfect reflection.
“Okay, okay, I’m up. Give me five,” I muttered as I rolled out of bed and jumped in the shower. Maybe I did need a shrink. I couldn’t control the nightmares, and I had no idea why I kept having the same dream over and over again.
It all started a few months ago, on the night of my sixteenth birthday. Every time I closed my eyes, I could see my mother running down a dark corridor, carrying me in her arms. I could actually feel the heat of the flames that licked at her heels as a woman she called Morgana came rushing towards us with a gleaming dagger raised to strike. But I never knew what happened next; it always ended the same way, with a flash of light and me screaming.
I could never remember anything about my birth parents. But now this dream had started—and I couldn’t understand how I knew that the blonde-haired lady in my dream was my real mother. I was adopted when I was barely two years old and was fortunate that the clothes I was wearing had my name embroidered on them when my adoptive parents found me; otherwise, I wouldn’t even know what it really was.
The warm shower shook off my fears, and I struggled to get dressed as fast as I could.
Cornelia was pacing up and down the small room as I quickly pulled on my ill-fitting uniform, which consisted of a white shirt tucked into a pleated green skirt, under a moss green blazer. I wore my scruffy black shoes and gathered my books and papers from my bedside where I had left them last night. I hadn’t finished my homework, and my side of the room was an absolute mess.
“Come on,” Cornelia said impatiently. “Mummy sent me back up to get you.”
“Where’s the rest of my homework?” I asked, frantically looking around for the lost sheets of paper.
Cornelia shrugged. “The piles of crumpled sheets lying on your desk?” she asked, putting her hands on her hips.
I glared at her and nodded slowly.
“I threw them out with the trash last night after you went to sleep. Mummy said to clean the room, so I did,” she said, grinning slyly.
“But those were my notes,” I ground out through clenched teeth, trying very hard to keep my anger in check.
“Well, you shouldn’t leave them lying all over the place if they are so important,” Cornelia said, dismissing me with a wave of her hand.
“They were not lying around. They were on my desk,” I said, raising my voice.
I was so angry, but there was nothing I could do. I had long since discovered that arguing with Cornelia never got me anywhere. She always wanted to have the last word and would go to any lengths to make sure that she got the better of me.
Sighing, I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to make up some plausible story about my lost homework. My history teacher was not going to be pleased.
I looked in the mirror. There was no point in bothering with my unruly black hair, which had now grown so long it was touching my waist. Just tying it in a rough ponytail would have to suffice.
“Mummy’s going to drive us to school,” Cornelia said as we rushed downstairs. “You know how she hates to be kept waiting.”
Aunt Arianna was standing in the kitchen, drumming her false fingernails on the counter, looking extremely irritated. Her dark, wispy hair was pulled back in an elegant bun, and her sharp, beady eyes glared daggers at me when I walked in.
I was in a bad mood myself, so I just gave her a sulky nod.
“Can’t you ever be on time, Aurora?” said Aunt Arianna scathingly. “For the life of me, I cannot figure out why my husband agreed to take you in. If it were up to me, I would have sent you back to the gutter you came from.”
Cornelia just smiled and nodded her head, agreeing with everything her mother said.
I flinched at her harsh words but chose to ignore them. It was too early in the morning for another fight. I knew my aunt hated me and didn’t want me around. I had tried being nice and helpful, and I cleaned my room and helped with the chores, but she was still mean to me whenever she got a chance. After a while I had given up trying.
So I kept my mouth shut and got into the backseat of Aunt Arianna’s battered blue Volvo. My aunt handed me a piece of toast before she started the car.
“Don’t want you fainting in school because you had no time to eat breakfast,” said Arianna Darlington, shooting me a withering glare.
“Thank you,” I said, taking it. I was surprised that she had even bothered.
“Don’t thank me,” said my aunt, meaning every word. “I didn’t do it for you, I just don’t want to be called into school to pick you up later today. I have a very busy day ahead, and I don’t have any time for your silly fainting spells.”
She started the car, as unruly tears welled in my eyes. I brushed them away quickly.
It had been two years since my adoptive parents died in a horrific car crash, and I had been staying with my father’s brother, his wife, and his daughter at their London home ever since. I guess I was lucky that they agreed to be my guardians; I don’t think they really had to, since I was not actually family, just adopted. But anything was better than being put in the foster system.
I couldn’t wait to turn eighteen; only then would I be free of the tyranny of my Aunt Arianna and Cornelia, both of whom were also probably counting the days until I left their house. It was not for another one and a half years, and it seemed like a lifetime.
School was a disaster.
I had to hand in an incomplete homework assignment because of Cornelia, and I got a week of detention because of it. I knew Cornelia hated me just as much as her mother did, but she was much more clever and sly about it.
As the day trudged on, things got steadily worse. I failed my algebra test, got my ass kicked in basketball, and, to top it all off, I had no friends, so I had to eat lunch on my own. Just a usual crappy day.
I was sitting in the school cafeteria, minding my own business and moving a piece of dried-up meatloaf around my plate, when a mousy girl with huge glasses whose name I couldn’t remember came up to my empty table and handed me a note. I took it and looked up at her, confused.
“What’s this?” I asked. No one had ever given me a note before.
The girl looked embarrassed but didn’t say anything. She just avoided my eyes and walked away.
I opened the note and glanced over it hurriedly. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening—this was no ordinary note. It was from Alex Carrington, the most popular boy in school.
I scanned the crowded lunchroom quickly. Alex was sitting at a corner table, chatting animatedly with a group of his friends, all part of the football team. His hair was blond and cut stylishly short, and he had the bluest eyes I had ever seen.
Suddenly he looked up, and our eyes locked. He was a little taken aback, but he gave me a small smile, which I could only interpret as reassuring. I looked away quickly, embarrassed that I had been caught staring at him.
Inside my chest, my overjoyed heart started doing somersaults; I was ecstatic. Could it be possible that Alex Carrington had actually noticed me? I had had a crush on him ever since the seventh grade, but he never gave me a second glance. Until now, I thought, with a silly smile on my face.
His note said that he wanted me to go with him to Kimberly Walden’s party on Friday night. But why would Alex send me a note? He could have just come over and asked me himself, since he didn’t seem the note-passing type. But I could be wrong, and I wanted to get a moment alone with him. I gathered my courage and waited outside the cafeteria, preparing myself to finally talk to Alex.
He walked out of the school lunchroom surrounded by his friends and a gaggle of giggling girls, whom I recognized as some of Cornelia’s friends.
“Hi Alex,” I said abruptly, as he passed by me standing awkwardly alone in the hall.
Alex stopped and turned. “Well, hello there,” he said, his boyish charm utterly disarming me.
“Um, I got your note,” I said, a little flustered, looking down and shifting from one foot to the other. This was the first time I had actually talked to him, and I desperately wanted to make a good impression.
He raised his eyebrows. “My note?” he said, looking slightly amused.
“Yes,” I said, peeping up at him.
I figured that maybe he was a bit shy and he didn’t want his friends to know about us yet, so I lowered my voice and spoke quietly.
“To go to Kimberly’s party on Friday,” I said softly. “I just wanted to tell you in person that I would love to go with you.”
To my utter dismay, Alex started laughing at me.
“Why would I go to Kimberly’s party with you?” he said between guffaws.
“But the note?” I spluttered.
I fished out the note from my scruffy blue knapsack, still confused, although a growing dread had started to creep into my bewildered mind.
Alex took the note from my shaky hand, stopped laughing and scanned it quickly. Finally, he looked up.
“I didn’t write this. I’m sorry, but I don’t even know your name,” he said, more gently this time. “I thought everyone knew I was going with Cornelia to the party.”
Suddenly raucous laughter erupted behind me. I looked around, with my heart beating a thousand times faster than normal. Someone had played a cruel joke. And it didn’t take a genius to figure out who it was. Cornelia and her friends were laughing their heads off at my utter humiliation.
Unshed tears welled up in my eyes and threatened to spill down my cheeks. I turned and fled down the school corridor, disappearing into the girls’ bathroom, with the dissipating sounds of Cornelia’s evil laughter ringing in my ears.
I was crushed, my already wobbly confidence stamped beneath Cornelia’s perfectly manicured feet. I was never a popular girl in school, even when my adoptive parents were alive. But now I would be the school joke, the person everybody whispered about behind their back.