I’m not sure I can handle any more important stuff. This whole Magic deal seemed fun this morning. But mercilessly Rolf goes on, ‘He has been tracking your mother for a long time. Once before, he nearly caught up with her. But he has been severely constricted by his human form and needs, and by his human old age. When he did finally hunt her down, however, he was delighted to find her much more vulnerable than before, now that she has children. And the reason his attention was attracted by your mother, I am sorry to tell you, is that she has been teetering on the edge practically from the word go. He had been observing her while still in the Council.’
I try to speak, but can’t. I clear my throat. ‘On the edge?’ I repeat hoarsely.
‘Yes, on the line between having credit and being in the red. Although, as I explained earlier, being in the red has no immediately visible consequences for your kind.’ Rolf averts his gaze from mine. ‘Please do not judge her too harshly. It is at the very least… partly my fault.’ He clearly has to force the last bit out. ‘I see she has been doing alright lately, though. And now her first child is of age. With a bang!’ He smiles a lopsided little smile, which somehow makes me look at the spot on the floor where the body has been. ‘So… have I… crossed the line now through… what I did today?’ I ask.
‘No,’ replies Rolf. ‘The reason being that you haven’t done anything. He succumbed to you, and very swiftly owing to your exaltation, because he was trying to make a child pay. A child is not allowed to pay. Not in the presence of Magic in credit. That’s not your doing.’ He tries another little smile. They’re clearly not his strong suit. It makes me ask the question I’m burning to ask. ‘So… would you have saved my sister if I hadn’t?’
Although Rolf must have expected this, there’s the briefest sore flicker on his face before it settles into deadpan. ‘That… is not my place. I must leave you now. I’m sorry that your birthday had to be like this. But remember, you are Juno’s firstborn. Remember your name!’
‘My name?’ I repeat, puzzled.
‘Use your powers wisely!’ says Rolf, and is gone.
I’m still staring at his empty chair when my sister says, ‘Where am I?’ She’s sitting up.
‘Umm… in Lab A,’ I answer cagily.
‘Why are we here?’ she asks.
‘We… I brought you here ’cause… you weren’t well. After you hurt your leg, remember? I figured you should lie down.’
‘I remember heading for the staff room…’ she mutters slowly. ‘But I don’t actually remember getting there.’
‘Yeah, I found you… in the hall,’ I lie.
‘So you took me to a lab?’
‘Well, ha ha, funny, that,’ I stall. ‘Ahm… y’know, I tried a little Magic. Since it’s my birthday? But, ahm, turns out… I’m not that good at it yet. ’Cause instead of at a physician’s, as I’d planned, we ended up in a physics lab.’ I’m kinda pleased with myself for that one.
‘Gosh, remind me not to rely on your Magic for anything serious,’ says Bobby and gets up.
So I was supposed to use my powers. Wisely. To find out about my name, apparently. But how? That’s what I was wondering as I sat with my back to a tree in Hastings Park a little while later. It was a clear day with just a few drops of spring watered down in the sea of snow around me. Yet I wasn’t cold. My name, I pondered. Jock…
And then it happened. ‘Dreary…’ I thought. ‘Aptly named, the place. Depression for sure. Oops! Damn stairs. Damn size twelve feet.’
I was so shocked about thinking thoughts that weren’t mine that I somehow gave the inside of my head a regular yank. That seemed to do it. I was back in my own mind.
For some reason I was still half-convinced it was Friday, September 13, 1963.
I spent nearly the whole day under that tree in Hastings Park. I learned to read minds irrespective of space and time, and to read what I read. And I learned what it means to come of age. It means to find out that your parents haven’t got a clue.