Before there was anything, there were two Deities; a God and a Goddess. They existed in the universe together, yet alone, creating planets and stars, building entire galaxies; within time, they became bored of their larger creations and began to create life. First the creatures were created, on this planet and that planet; animals, insects, birds, dinosaurs, anything they could think of that amused their magnificent minds. Scattering life across the galaxies they had made, the two Deities came together to bring something new, something different, something more evolved into existence… and so they designed humanity.
Together, the God and Goddess shaped a new star system, with new planets, just for their new creation. They spent time filling it with the best of their works from across their universe, producing a tapestry of planets and moons. Together, the God and the Goddess chose their finest animal species to inhabit the third world in their new system. The Goddess formed the fauna that lived on the land and under the sea. The God built the mountains and the rivers. The Goddess and the God smiled as they looked upon their world and, feeling it was ready, picked the most beautiful part of the planet, a lovely clearing filled with fruit-bearing trees, flowers and a gentle flowing river in the deepest heart of the thickest forest for their new project. Then, together, they created mankind.
The God spawned the First Man, a strong, tall, dark-skinned being he called Adam. As he imagined Adam, so he willed Adam into reality. The Goddess thought it was delightful for a first of the species, but she thought her creation should be special and so she created the First Woman, with fiery red hair, brilliant green eyes, flawless fair skin and rosy lips. As she imagined her, she willed her into being and called her Lilith. Unbeknownst to God, the Goddess had whispered into her creation the ability to manipulate the world around her, thereby creating not only the first woman, but the First Witch.
For a time, Lilith and Adam lived in peace and love. Exploring the world made just for them, they found joy and happiness. To understand their new species, The God composed rules for Adam, insisting that he not kill the other creatures and not eat from one fruit-bearing tree, but the Goddess had given Lilith no such restriction. The Goddess had given the First Woman the ability to produce magic and enjoyed watching Lilith learn to cast simple spells when she was in private. The Goddess smiled upon her and felt the love of a mother for her daughter. The God felt no such attachment.
Instead, the God saw potential in his construct, and with a need to control, The God commanded Adam to do his bidding. Adam served his God, praying and worshipping his God. Adam tried to command Lilith to worship his Creator too, but, like most independent young women, she refused to submit. Instead she focused on the other creatures around her, befriending the animals in the world that flourished around her. The First Man became angry at her, for ignoring him, for refusing to submit and he complained to the God that made him. The God began to watch the First Woman and, when He saw her using magic, the God grew angry with the Goddess for keeping secrets from him, casting Lilith from the magnificent garden the deities had created together.
The Goddess, in an effort to protect Lilith from the God’s wrath, hid her far from Adam and the God. She wrapped her creation in a protective cloaking spell and whispered the secret to magic into Lilith’s mind as she slept. Not long after she was ejected from the Garden that would later become known as Eden, Lilith found she was with child. The Goddess, seeking to protect her, blessed her pregnancy with the same gifts she’d bestowed unto the mother, whispering magic into their souls. Some time later, Lilith gave birth to Aya and Baan, the First Daughter and the First Son. The Goddess created other beings but withheld her gifts of magic from them, reserving that for the bloodline of the First Woman.
During this time, the God had created Eve from Adam’s Rib, shaping her like the First Woman and willing her to life. She would submit to Adam and worship the God. In time, the Goddess and her humans were forgotten, ignored by the God and erased from the history of Men. Later, religions would be created, wars waged and millions slaughtered to appease the God’s need to be worshiped.
For many centuries, Lilith, her children, their children and all the other children of the Goddess lived in relative peace, on the other side of what seemed so long ago to be a very large world. The Goddess watched happily as her children lived naturally, in tune with the earth magic around them, finding love with her other creations and creating more children, then more and more. Thousands of years passed, during which time some of the Goddess’s Children had created civilizations of wonder and awe, while others lived simply, happily, two large landmasses filled with the Goddess’s creations and She was happy too.
Sadly, all things do not last forever and the Children of God came to the beautiful, undisturbed, peaceful lands of Lilith’s descendants. First in small groups, some from the west and some from the east. The Goddess’s Children fought off these incursions for a time. Eventually, there came a man claiming to have discovered a rich bounty for their taking and he brought others with him. The Children of God slaughtered and enslaved the Goddess’s people, destroying their homes and stealing their lands. The Goddess tried to save Her people but the God stopped her, having grown powerful through the worship of His followers. She was no match as She had never demanded to be revered. Helplessly, the Goddess watched as her lands were pillaged, raped and destroyed by the Children of God. Lilith, the First Witch and an immortal being, hid away, escaping towards the isolated mountains where no man dare go.
Lilith’s children, however, had long ago altered their fate. Aya had realized her mortality and became a creature of darkness. Having cursed herself while attempting to prolong her life, she was now forced to live off the blood of others to survive. She sought to find her children and give them her resistance to aging, turning only those who consented into the first Vampires, birthing a new species. Baan, a natural immortal, had many children with many women, although he did not parent them, feeling that they were beneath his immortality. One day, one of those sons, long angry with Baan for the abandonment, sought him out and, accompanied by a coven of powerful witches descended from his line, came with large wolves and attacked him on a Full Moon, hoping to strip him of his immorality. In desperation, Baan took on wolf form to fight the attackers, becoming stronger and larger than the natural wolves. He won the night but later learned that any male descendants who came after were cursed by the bloodline, forced to turn into wolves every full moon. Only his daughters retained access to their hereditary magic. The remaining witches and warlocks, having realized the danger the Children of God brought to their lands, hid themselves under protective spells, secreting their magic away and hiding in plain sight as one of the Children of God.
Wars raged on the Goddess’s lands, the Creatures of Night were hunted by the Children of God, killed or worse and so eventually, when the Creatures of Night vanished from their known world, the Children of God felt they’d won. The truth of it was, however, that the Children of the Goddess, the witches and warlocks, the vampires and werewolves, still existed in the shadows and in the night. Hiding, biding their time, until it would be safe to return to the light of day.
“Friday mornings are the worst to find motivation,” Xavier complained to his twin sister, Arya, “I just don’t understand why we can’t have a four day week. All I have on Fridays are PE and study hall.”
She rolled her emerald eyes at her twin, tucking a wild strand of fiery red hair behind her ear. “And English and Science.”
Although they were twins, neither looked remotely like the other. Xavier had dark hair, dark eyes, a strong nose and jawline covered in bronzed olive skin. He was taller than her too, by over a foot, standing tall at six foot four.
“Yea, but why do those matter?” he laughed, glancing at his phone. As he stood up, a car honked their horn and Xavier groaned. “He just texted. He’s gotta give me a second. Gotta go, Sis.” Grabbing his bag, Xavier ran out the door, leaving Arya at the table alone with her bowl of fruit.
“Clean up your plate,” she called to no one, since he was already gone. Shaking her head, she scrolled through her phone as she ate her breakfast. It was the usual Twitter and Facebook scandals, which she pretty much ignored. Instead she loved looking at photos of horses on Instagram, which she dreamed she’d one day have. The twins had both had riding lessons when they were younger, and she’d fallen in love with all things equine.
“Good morning, Sweetie,” Arya’s mom said walking into the kitchen. Arya looked much like her mother, with the same bright red hair and brilliant green eyes, fair skin. In fact, if you asked most people, they were identical, only separated by the years on their faces. It was almost like Arya’s mom had cloned her. Apparently their grandmother and great-grandmother also all had strong resemblances to Arya, but those photos had been lost in a fire long ago, much to Arya’s disappointment and her mother’s sadness.
Arya smiled. Her mother was her best friend and they didn’t get to spend that much time together. “Morning, Mom! How was surgery last night?”
“Oh, you know, I put someone back together and he lived.” Arya’s mother was a General surgeon at Peak Memorial Hospital and she was one of the best. People often sought her out because her survival rates were some of the highest in the nation, something Arya admired so much about her mother. “Where’s Xavy?”
“I think Brian picked him up. Or Luke. One of them,” she replied. Brian Cho and Luke Matthews were Xavier’s best friends. Both boys had their licenses and were about a year older than the twins, who were only turning sixteen on the weekend. “Whichever one honks before they send a text.”
“Oh, drat. I was hoping to talk to him before he left… Well, tell him I’ll pick you both up this afternoon. There’s something we have to talk about and I need you together.” Her mom carefully avoided eye contact while pouring herself a cup of coffee. Arya studied her mother’s tight expression and instantly, a wave of anxiety washed over her. Something was up.
“What’s going on, Mom?” Her mother just shook her head.
“It’s not bad, I promise, but I need to talk to you both. Together.” She sighed heavily, glancing at the clock. “I’ll get dressed and then we’ll leave. I’ll drop you off at the corner by the school on my way.”
Arya nodded, watching her mother’s retreating back as she left the room.
After an unusual, uncomfortably silent car ride, Arya waved bye to her mother and began a brisk walk to school. As she neared the building, she saw her own best friend, Latoya, the smartest girl in school. They ran to each other and hugged. Latoya’s umber skin was nearly black as midnight and her eyes were deep pools of obsidian, which made Arya think of her friend as a living breathing representation of an African Queen. Today she was wearing a bright lavender sweater and jeans, which somehow made her skin look more radiant. Her tightly coiled curls cascaded naturally, falling, somehow, in a perfect mess that made her seem like she wasn’t trying too hard but was still stunning. Her full lips were painted with lavender lipstick and her shimmering eyeshadow brightened the pink undertones in her skin. The sunlight hit her hair, highlighting her crown with undertones of red and blonde, enhancing her features, her smile becoming brighter.
“Oh my gosh, your birthday is tomorrow!!! Are you excited?” Latoya hooked Arya’s arm in hers as they walked into the high school, passing boys who turned to stare at Latoya. She was easily the prettiest girl in school and everyone knew it.
“I mean, yea, I guess.”
They walked together down the hall where their lockers stood side by side. Latoya Hernandez and Arya Herstory had been cubby mates long before they were old enough for lockers, thanks to their names, but the truth is they’d been friends since Latoya’s mother and Arya’s mother had been in medical school, pregnant together. They’d helped each other build their lives as best friends, which resulted in their daughters forming a lifelong bond.
Arya sighed. “But it kind of just reminds me that my father is still not in my life. And, after sixteen years, I still don’t know who he is.”
Latoya’s dark brown eyes filled with sympathy and she made a soothing sound rather than reply. They’d been friends long enough that words weren’t needed. Unlike Latoya, whose parents were still married, Arya had grown up with a single mom and a twin brother, but no father. Not even Latoya’s mother knew who their father was. Arya knew this because Latoya had asked one night, after her mother had a few too many drinks. They’d had a heart to heart when Latoya’s mom drank and became her typical sappy, lovely self.
“I guess I just want to know. That’s all I want for my sixteenth birthday, It’s my birthday wish,” Arya continued, closing her locker. “But anyways, your birthday is two weeks away… what do you want?”
Her friend laughed as Arya’s usual optimism took over. “I’m thinking a car, got the cash for one?” Latoya closed her locker and followed Arya to homeroom.
“No but I’m sure your Dad will get his princess anything she wants,” Arya said, hiding the jealousy from her voice. Latoya had a strong bond with her father, Tyrone Hernandez, a world renowned cardiothorasic surgeon at Peak Memorial. Tyrone had always been very welcoming to the twins, treating them as extensions of his own family. Arya just smiled and shook her head. “I know what Xavier wants…” she said, teasingly.
Latoya rolled her eyes, laughing. “Girl, you know that boy ain’t got nothing I want.”
The teacher side-eyed them as they took their seats, giggling. As their teacher took attendance, Arya and Latoya whispered back and forth about their upcoming birthdays and what imaginary silly thing they wanted. By the end of homeroom, they’d decided they wanted magic powers and unicorns for pets.
Xavier, who’d been listening, laughed at them. “You’re so friggin weird, Yas,” as he referred to Arya and Latoya when they were together. Latoya rolled her eyes at him again.
“Oh, Xavy, Mom says she’s picking us up at 3. Don’t forget…” Arya paused before adding, “apparently, she has some news.”
Xavier’s eyes clouded with worry. The last time their mother had news, she’d been about to marry Glenn, a fellow doctor at Peak Memorial, also known as the worst person on the planet. Xavier had nearly gone to Juvy defending Arya from him, seriously hurting Glenn and putting him into the hospital for months. Arya shuddered at the memory. It was just lucky their mother was a respected doctor and that she’d been able to afford a good attorney.
“I don’t think it’s like that, Xavy…” she whispered to her twin.
His face remained neutral, but his eyes were still filled with worry. “Yea, okay, whatever,” he said in a cold voice. He walked out the door, calling over his shoulder, “I’ll see you at 3.”
Arya stared after him for a moment before Latoya grabbed her arm, pulling her towards their first class, which, like most things, the girls shared.
The rest of the day passed normally. Xavier was nowhere to be seen, which wasn’t unusual on Fridays, but Arya, who was trying to graduate early, had all of her AP classes on Fridays. In every class her teachers and classmates wished her a happy sixteenth birthday, asking her what her weekend plans were. Although the twins had planned nothing, Latoya had overridden their requests and was holding a party for twins at the local diner the next night. Everyone had agreed to come, which overwhelmed the redheaded wallflower, but she looked forward to it secretly.
At the end of the day, Xavier emerged from wherever he’d been hiding and met Arya at the same corner she’d been dropped that morning. He still seemed very worried about whatever it was their mother had to talk to him about and merely grunted hello at his sister. She tried not to worry about her twin or her mother’s news, choosing to read a book about Odin and the other Norse Gods. Arya was always interested in mythology and had read nearly every religious text, studied nearly every form of paganism and wondered at the magic the stories told, wishing they were real. Lost in her pages, she didn’t notice her brother shifting impatiently or the time passing quickly from when their mother agreed to pick them up.
“Where is she, Ya?” Xavier broke her focus, looking angrily at his phone. “I texted her three times and she hasn’t responded. She won’t pick up. She said she had to talk to us…”
“I don’t know, Xavy,” Arya replied softly. “Maybe she got pulled into an emergency surgery and forgot to let us know before she scrubbed in…. you know how trauma is.” This placated her brother momentarily. His muscles relaxed, and his face lost its angry expression. “I’m sure she’s fine. Let’s meet her at home. I’m hungry anyways…” Her voice trailed off as he started walking.
“No, I texted her that we’re going to Uncle Chewy’s,” Xavier called back to her. Picking up her bag, she ran after him.
★ ★ ★
Chewy’s was a hole-in-the-wall diner with those really old vinyl booths where the vinyl had cracked and covered with duct tape. Most of the furniture was old and had been fixed several times over, but, according to the Herstorys, the food was the best in town. Uncle Chewy, as the twins called the owner, was an older man in his sixties with dark mahogany skin, white hair and friendly brown eyes surrounded by laugh lines that made his face seem friendlier. The twins’ mother had been taking them to Chewy’s Diner since she’d first had a craving for chili fries and wandered in. They almost never went anywhere else.
The bell at the door rang as Xavier held the door for Arya and walked in behind her. Chewy was standing at the counter, pouring a coffee for a stranger, which was absolutely typical for a Friday afternoon. They lived in a town just off the interstate and people were always passing through.
Chewy smiled when he saw the kids, beckoning them to their usual spots at the counter, just a few seats from the stranger. “How’re my kiddos today?”
His voice was deep and rhythmic, no matter what he said. Their mother once told them he’d been a mildly successful Blues singer from Beale Street in Memphis when he decided that wasn’t his life anymore. He came to Peak's Village and opened his diner, using the money he’d made from his first and only record.
“Have you seen our Mom?” Xavier asked, ignoring the question, sitting down and turning over his coffee cup. Although their mother frowned upon it, Xavier insisted he drink coffee ‘like a real man.’ Chewy shook his head. “She was supposed to pick us up but she didn’t. Now she won’t answer my texts.”
“She could be in surgery. You know she’s a busy lady,” he said, pouring the coffee into Xavier’s cup. “Milkshake for you, my dear?” Chewy asked Arya, who answered with a smile.
“I’m calling Nancy,” Xavier said, getting up and going outside to use his phone. Chewy’s had a No Cell Phones sign since they’d been invented and he had thrown customers out for violating it, but if Xavier or Arya broke the rules, it was dish duty for them. Clearly, Xavier wasn’t interested in that outcome.
“Well, how was your day, Sweetie Pie?”
Arya smiled at Chewy’s nicknames, ever changing but ever endearing. “It was alright,” she replied. “Just the normal high school experience, I guess.”
Chewy nodded and glanced towards Xavier. “Brother is clearly in a bit of a mood. He doin alright?” Arya shrugged and pulled the menu out as if to study it. “Hungry, Buttercup?”
Arya paused, reading the menu briefly before giving him her order. “Large fries, gravy on the side.”
“You are consistent.” After giving her order to the line cook, Maurice, Chewy turned to the stranger, drawing Arya’s attention to him for the first time. “Anything else?”
The stranger could have been a replica of her brother, older, more weathered but still the same face, same eyes, same dark olive skin, although his was covered in tattoos, strange symbols. Arya couldn’t help but stare. He was reading the paper in front of him, completely ignoring Chewy and Arya. Chewy walked into the back to make Arya’s milkshake but Arya was frozen. She was used to the resemblance to her own mother while her brother had always seemed the odd duck, so to speak, but this man, the resemblance… He felt dangerous, unsafe to her, no matter how he looked. As fear filled her, she let go of rational thought. She didn’t notice herself start to shake, her breathing become ragged or feel herself get up and back away to the door until she bumped into it. She barely recalled turning and opening the door to run out it. She didn’t see Xavier on the phone with Nancy and she didn’t remember how she got home. The stranger’s face, her brother’s face, older and scarred, never left her mind.
★ ★ ★
The door to their house slammed and her brother’s voice called out her name. By the time he was off the phone with Nancy, who confirmed their mother was in a surgery that could last a few more hours, he returned the diner to discover his sister gone. Chewy told Xavier that she’d just run out and he didn’t know why. She hadn’t said anything. Xavier didn’t notice the stranger, still reading the papers in front of him, before grabbing their food to go, and paying.Then he rushed home to find his sister.
“ARYA!!!!” He called again, opening the door of her room, where she was on the floor with her knees tucked to her chest. This wasn’t the first time, she’d gotten this way, panicked and afraid, but usually there was a reason, however unusual. After all, Arya saw things Xavier couldn’t explain, things he was unable to see. Sitting down next to her, his voice in a whisper, he asked “What happened? Why’d you run out of Chewy’s?” Arya looked into the warmth of brother’s dark eyes and placed her hand on his young, handsome face. Finally, she was calmed, though not entirely, enough to steady her breathing. She just shook her head, leaning into his body. There were some things she couldn’t explain.
“I’m okay, I just had a panic attack. It’s fine…” she said as normally as she could. “Did you find Mom?” She asked changing the subject, stretching her legs out in front of her to show she was okay.
Xavier swallowed his annoyance at her lie but allowed the change. “Yea, you were right. She’s in surgery. Nancy said a couple hours, maybe more. Apparently she forgot to text one of us because she wasn’t supposed to be on-call and I guess it was one of the other doctors that got hurt,” Xavier explained, rocking his body side to side, causing his sister’s to do the same.
“Do you know which one?” Arya asked.
“Nancy wouldn’t say. She just asked if we were good for dinner,” he answered. “I told her we were eating ice cream and sugar straight.” His eyes sparkled with mischief. "She told me to stop being naughty.”
Nancy was the oldest nurse in Colorado, possibly the country, at 87 years old. She was in charge of knowing the whereabouts of every doctor and nurse at all times, and her mind, sharp as ever, never failed. Xavier enjoyed teasing her, because, like most of their makeshift village, Nancy loved them as family and always bought them something special for their birthday, a small token like a grandmother would. Nancy didn’t have any children, as she’d devoted her entire life to her community, from her profession as a nurse to her volunteer work with the church and local animal shelters. Everyone who knew Nancy loved her and she loved everyone too.
“I wonder if she’s coming tomorrow,” Arya said softly, pulling herself into a standing position. She’d decided not to tell her brother about the stranger, completely sure he’d think her crazy like he usually did when she said she saw things, even if he didn’t say so. There was a reason she was the quiet one; she had secrets.
“I invited her. She said she’d stop by but wouldn’t stay. You know her,” he replied, his voice nearing a grunt as he stood.
“Thats nice. I really miss seeing her.”
Before their 13th birthday, their mother had insisted they either spend every day after school at Latoya’s or the hospital, if both of Latoya’s parents were working. Nancy had spent a lot of time with them, from helping with homework to working out problems with bullies and friends. Arya loved Nancy and called her ‘Nana’ at Nancy’s insistence, but Xavier never had such an affinity for Nancy, though he did like her a lot and trusted her with his own childhood secrets. Xavier nodded and lead the way downstairs, past the bookshelves overflowing with books that lined the hallway on both sides. “I’m sorry I ran out,” Arya finally said. She didn’t meet his eyes but her brother didn’t ask her to explain or even acknowledge her apology.
“So I grabbed your fries and gravy, also Chewy threw in our usual chicken burgers with bacon and cheese. And your milkshake is in the freezer,” Xavier dug through the brown paper bag for his food. “Want to watch something? I’m currently marathoning Game of Thrones.”
“Again?” Arya raised her eyebrow at her brother in amusement. “You are constantly watching that show.”
The two laughed and talked as they ate their dinner. When they finished, they cleared the table and went to the loft upstairs and put on a Marvel movie instead. After all, Arya reasoned, there’s only so many times she can watch her namesake murder everyone. Xavier had rolled his eyes and agreed to the compromise as long as they started with Iron Man.
★ ★ ★
Hours later, the door to the Herstory house opened and closed, without a sound. After a long surgery, Dr. Lily Herstory was finally done. She’d managed to save her coworker after he’d been hit by an Ambulance in the ER bay. It had been a long, draining day and she still hadn’t had the important talk with her kids and they needed to know by midnight of their sixteenth birthday. She still had time, but just barely.
Hearing the television upstairs, the exhausted woman put her bag down by the door and headed up. Walking into the loft, she saw her children sleeping peacefully. Her son was on the couch, his long legs hanging off the end as he was far too tall, while her daughter curled in a ball on the overstuffed chair. The TV was playing the introduction to something involving Iron Man, the volume turned down low enough to not bother them but loud enough to cover their mother’s homecoming. Turning the television off, darkness filled the room, with only the glow of a nightlight from the hallway for illumination.
“Mom?” Xavier yawned, waking up as the tv turned off. “How was work? Did that doctor live?”
“He did,” she whispered. “It was touch and go for a while, but he pulled through.” She paused, glancing at her daughter’s sleeping form and her regular breathing. “Chewy texted me about Arya. Said she just ran out, without a word. What happened?”
“No idea, she wouldn’t tell me. We had dinner and watched movies after. She was acting normal… for her.”
Lily took a deep breath, willing herself to fulfill her task. “We need to wake her. There’s something we need to talk about. Now.”
She was filled with dread but time had long since passed to tell her children the horrible truth she’d protected them from for sixteen years, giving them a normal childhood they could treasure in their memories before everything changed. And everything was about to change, Lily knew for certain.
“Alright, let me go pee and I’ll be right back,” Xavier stretched and stood up. His mother shook her head and told him to meet her in the kitchen.
Kneeling next to Arya’s resting body, her peaceful face, she was hesitant to wake her daughter. Lily felt fierce love for her daughter and remorse for what was to be said. Steadying herself again, inhaling deeply, she reached out for her daughter, shaking her shoulder gently, whispering her name. As Arya opened her dazzling green eyes, her face filled with joy, recognizing her mother, the same way she’d always smiled at her mother when she opened her eyes as a baby.
“Wake up, Baby… I need to talk to you and Xavy,” Lily stood as Arya untangled her limbs and stood, stretching her arms behind her head.
“What’s wrong, Mom?” Arya whispered, anxiety filling her once more. “I can tell it’s something.”
“I’ll tell you downstairs. Freshen up and meet me in the kitchen,” her mother replied, giving her daughter a last glance before walking back down the hall to the stairs.
Arya stood up, feeling tired and nervous, which made her stomach off. Rushing to the bathroom, she relieved herself and stared into the mirror at her face as she washed her hands. “It’s okay, Arya,” she whispered to herself, repeating it over and over, to calm herself. It wasn’t working, but her mother called her again and she had to go. “Everything will be fine, Arya,” she whispered, making her way to the kitchen.
★ ★ ★
The room was too quiet for the number of people in it, Arya thought to herself as she walked towards the door. The clock on her phone read 2:23am, making this family meeting ripe with peculiarities even before it began. Her mother had never woken them in the middle of the night to have a talk in their lives. This worried Arya and dread filled her. Her heart sped up and her blood ran cold but she took a few calming breaths and pushed the door to the kitchen open.
At the small circular table in the kitchen, her mother sat with a cup of coffee and a pink bakers box, unopened. Xavier was at the counter, making himself a cup of coffee and filling the kettle with water for Arya’s tea. He was truly the best brother anyone could ask for, she thought to herself. She’d forgotten the stranger from earlier, forgotten her panic, too consumed with the current mystery their mother was about to explain.
Her brother was unusually gentle with his actions, as if he sensed her apprehension, which he probably did. They did have that Twintuition thing going for them. Her mother was oddly still, simply sipping her coffee, black with one sugar, waiting. Arya sat at the table and opened the pink baker’s box reveal half a dozen donuts from Xavier’s favorite donut shop, The Smiley Nut. Arya grabbed a napkin from the squirrel napkin holder her mother bought at a dollar store and selected one of the two powdered raspberry jam filled donuts. Her mother mimicked her actions, selecting a glazed strawberry jelly instead. Finally the tea kettle’s whistle broke the silence.
“Tea’s up, Ya…” Xavier’s words seemed strangely out of place given the atmosphere of the room, filled with so much tension it was palpable in the air. She got up from the table and fixed her tea, a hibiscus dominant raspberry blend with honey and a little cream. Xavier was on his second cup of coffee, stirring the creamer in before taking a satisfying gulp. “Ah, that’s better.”
Arya rolled her eyes as they both joined their mother at the table. Her mother fiddled with the napkin under the untouched donut. Taking a deep breath, she met their gaze, looking deeply into Arya’s eyes then Xavier’s.
“I have been hiding something from you since you were old enough to ask me who your father was. When you started asking questions, I didn’t know how to tell you and I pushed it off for as long as I could.” Her voice was just barely above a whisper, the silent room around them seemed nearly able to drown her out. “I love you, more than words can ever say. You are my life, both of you, the most valuable people in the world to me… but soon you will come of age and time does not forgive my feelings…”
“Mom,” Xavier interrupted. “What are you talking about? Hid from us? Time? You aren’t making any sense…” His voice trailed off as Arya laid her hand on his forearm.
“Let her talk, Xavy.”
Xavier looked into his sister’s fear filled eyes. “Sorry,” he muttered, sitting back and crossing his arms over his chest. “Go on.”
Lilith stood, obviously struggling with her emotions. Her eyes filled with tears. “There’s no easy way to say this… I’m not who you think I am…” she began. “I am your mother and I am a doctor, but I’m something else… we are something else…” Her voice weakened.
Arya felt a surge of sympathy for her mother. Whatever it was their mother was about to tell them, Arya thought, it must be awful. “Mom?”
“Arya, Xavier… I am not mortal and I haven’t been since the time of Eden…” She took a breath,” Arya, what do you know of Lilith?”
“What the fuh?” Xavier began.
“XAVIER, language!” Her mother admonished. “I know it sounds crazy but I am not a mortal and, my loves, my dear sweet children, neither are you…” she paused, pushing back her chair, standing. “Arya, you love your mythology… Do you know of Lilith?” Her mother asked again, waited patiently.
A moment passed before Arya took an unsteady breath and answered. “Well, she’s the mother of all demons, the first wife of Adam and a Succubus… according to lore, anyways,” Arya responded, surprised her voice worked at all. “She’s supposed to be the wife of Lucifer Morningstar… the devil.”
Xavier wore expression of strained calm, his dark eyes pooled with anger and confusion. He stayed seated, leaning back as if he didn’t have a care in the world, his arms crossed on his chest, his donut remaining uneaten.
“Well, the Children of God always did have their own version of events and they wrote the history books…” Their mother sounded bitter as she trailed off, before continuing in a calmer voice, “Lilith is the Mother of Demons and Witches, it’s true. Long story, too long for now, and really unimportant. It’s also true that I am Lucifer’s wife, the Queen of Hell…”
Xavier started to shake, still leaning back, acting as if he didn’t care. Arya was staring at her mother like she was a stranger.
“But we went our own ways a great many years ago, agreeing to come together only once every century…”
Xavier wasn’t the smartest boy in school but he wasn’t slow. Leaning forward, his chair landed with a loud thud, causing Arya to wince. “Are you saying the Devil is our father?”
“No, that’s not possible,” Arya whispered. “You said you didn’t know who he was… That you’d been stressed and hadn’t been safe. You always say that’s why I need to…” Arya’s voice tapered off, tears brimming in her eyes.
Their mother took a moment, looking at the crushed defeat in her son’s eyes and the agony on her daughter’s face. “Yes, I lied to you.” Her voice was almost inaudible. “Yes. Lucifer is your father,” she repeated.
“Why are you even telling us this? Obviously it didn’t matter for sixteen friggin years?” Xavier stood. His anger caused him to pace the kitchen while he glared at their mother.
“I’m telling you this because tonight, at midnight, after you ascend, he is coming to collect you.”
“Ascend?” Xavier said as Arya cried out, “What? We’re leaving?”
“What the hell does that mean? Collect us? Like property? To go where?” His voice was loud, seething with venom. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Mom?” Arya whispered, too afraid to be angry. She was still sitting at the table, although she’d brought her knees to her chest, resting her feet on the seat of the small dining chair. “Mommy?” Arya sounded like a little girl; her voice a mousy squeak.
A tear fell from Lilith’s eyes as she saw the devastation she’d just caused her children. She’d never before been the reason for their suffering and in this moment, she knew she was to be blamed for all of it.
“I’m so sorry, my loves…” She wrapped her arms around her daughter’s hunched form and continued. “This deal was made. the bargain struck before you were ever a dream…” She sounded serenely reasonable as she explained, “Hundreds of years ago, eons after being flung from Eden, years after Lucifer had fallen from his God’s Grace, we found each other… Two lonely immortal beings wandering the earth, isolated from all other creatures in our own hells…”
Xavier sat down again, leaning forward, putting his elbow on the table, resting his head against his hand. Lilith released her as Arya shifted, unbending her knees and sitting up straight. Their eyes met for a moment before Lilith looked away, sipping her coffee.
“He was divinely handsome, like you Xavy. His darkened skin, not quite brown but golden, like yours, his eyes were deep and dark like yours. Only his were filled with mystery and secrets I wanted to know from the moment I looked into them… I was such a fool… you see, he was absolutely the most magnificent thing I’d ever seen in all my days on earth.”
“What?” Xavier muttered, annoyed but no longer visibly angry, calmed by his mother’s story. Arya said nothing, sipping her now cold tea.
“He’d been looking for me, he later told me.” She paused. "He’d disagreed with his Father, the God, and been cast out of Heaven, he said… At the time, I was so alone… mine and Adam’s first children, Aya and Baan, had long ago left me, in search of their Father, in themselves, in search of their futures…” Another tear dripped down her face. “I didn’t begrudge them. They had their reasons…”
“So we have other siblings…” Arya said curiously.
“You do. A few.” Lilith nodded solemnly. “Although, most of my children were from mortal men and were mortal beings and have long ago died. Only my first children are still alive.” She sighed. “They were Children of Adam, Aya and Baan, but I have not seen them in centuries.”
“Wait, Aya? Like Aya the vampire queen in the legends?” Arya laughed. “You’re kidding! This has to be some joke.” The whole thing was completely preposterous. “You almost had me.”
“What? A vampire? Mom? What the hell?” Xavier stood and paced the kitchen, without looking at his mother or sister. He wasn’t convinced his mother was kidding.
“I’m not lying, Arya,” Lilith said sadly. “It’s true. I know it sounds crazy… you’ve grown up in the mortal world, living in peace and you’ve been allowed a normal life… it was the bargain I made with Lucifer, that you be allowed a normal, mortal life. You see, we didn’t fall in love right away, Lucifer and I. It was more of a strict arrangement than a marriage.”
Arya stood up, putting the kettle back on the burner for another cup. She didn’t look at her mother, still not sure her mother wasn’t pranking them. Xavier moved to the seat she vacated and leaned back, his arms once again folded across his chest.
“I was with a mortal man at the time. A distant grandson of Adam and his second wife… He was a brave warrior, a handsome man with yellow hair and eyes of sea blue. He didn’t know what I was but loved me, despite my secrets. We had twins, a boy and a girl, just like you two and just like my first two.” Tears dripped down Lilith’s cheeks as her eyes glazed at the memory. “When they turned sixteen, the magic inside them manifested and they were able to tap into their gifts.” She fell silent as tears now flowed like a stream from her eyes.
“Mommy,” Arya said, wrapping her arms around their mother. Arya felt broken
She choked back tears and scoffed. “And that’s when their father stopped loving me. He called them abominations… He murdered them as they slept and tried to kill me.” The bitterness emanated from Lilith as she recalled one of her darkest hours. “But I cannot die and so I was forced to live with the loss of my children.”
“Wait so he killed them? For being witches?” Xavier said, finally breaking his silence.
“Yes. He was terrified of their power and he felt it was… unnatural. He said it was evil and so was I.” Moments passed in silence before she continued, taking a sip of her cold coffee to wet her lips. “That’s when Lucifer found me, consoled me for the loss he knew to be awful and asked me to be his Queen, his equal. You see, not even Adam, my first husband, wanted me to be his equal. His God demanded to be worshipped and I would not so Adam tried beating me into submission, and when I refused, his creator threw me from Eden like trash, nearly dead.”
“That’s awful,” Arya whispered.
The tea kettle had barely whistled when she turned off the burner, pouring the water into a cup and sitting next to her mother again. She no longer thought her mother was playing a game.
A faint smile crossed Lilith’s lips as she continued to weave the history of her life into a story for her children. “The Goddess, she was my Creator and she was once a powerful being in her own right. The God of Abraham’s equal when this world began,” Lilith said with conviction. “She saved me from Adam and his God and all their hatred… granting me safe haven in a magnificent land far from Eden.”
“Eden?” Xavier muttered, not realizing he’d even spoken aloud.
Ignoring him, Lilith continued, “she created other humans, like Adam, without my… special gifts, so I wouldn’t be alone. Men and women, who had children and who lived alongside my own children. We were the Children of the Goddess.”
As his mother drifted into a sort of haze, Xavier got up to put the kettle back on and fixed another pot of coffee. It was now 4:30 in the morning. What a way to start his sixteenth birthday, he thought. If his mother was to be believed, in less than twenty hours, he would meet his father, the Devil. A few minutes later they were all seated around the table, eating their donuts and drinking in silence, a slight reprieve from the tension. Finally, after finishing her glazed jelly, she wiped her hands on a napkin and took a deep breath, sighing.
“As you can imagine, Lucifer’s offer was nothing short of everything I’d dreamed, to be treated like an equal, with respect and dignity. I’d already been cast away from two loves of my life, despite how much I loved them. I’d already been a mother and had my children stolen away. Lucifer’s offer gave me the chance to protect any others I might one day have.” She smiled at her children, touching both of her children’s hands softly. “He knew who I was, of course, and he wanted to rebel against his God by making me his partner, the way God had refused to allow me to be with Adam. It was the perfect match. So it seemed.”
Another deep breath and heavy sigh interrupted her soliloquy but Lilith continued right away. “I didn’t have children with Lucifer for the first five hundred years of our marriage. We’d spent the entire time in hell and I refused to allow a child to be born amongst Lucifer’s perverse creations… his Demons. While I am Grandmother of Vampires, I am not nor have I ever been the Mother of Demons. Those were Lucifer’s unique companions, dark creatures who did his bidding.” She shuddered. “He was so obsessed with creating something better than his God, but nothing he made could survive in the mortal world of mankind. Although he could cause chaos with his disgusting creations, infecting the Children of Adam, while my own descendants are immune to possessions.”
“Mom, you’re losing us here,” Xavier blurted out, glancing at his sister’s puzzled expression. “We get it. Lucifer was awful and you clearly aren’t in hell anymore so what gives?” Xavier didn’t mince his words, interrupting her thoughts to focus her.
“Right. Sorry,” she mumbled, taking another deep breath. “Anyways, Lucifer saw my unhappiness and my loneliness and in an attempt to win my favor, he granted me a gift. I could live with the mortals, walk amongst them, so long as I provided him with a child, once every five hundred years on their sixteenth birthday,” Her anguish was clear when she dared to look at her children.
“What?” The twins said in shocked unison.
“You see, tonight at the midnight hour, your father is coming to decide which of you will be his Heir to the Kingdom of Hell…” Lilith whispered.
“Why? Why sixteen? Why at midnight?” Xavier demanded, leaning forward in anticipation, his leg shaking under the table. Arya stayed quiet as she had no idea what she should say.
“Because that’s when you’ll get your gifts from the Goddess,” she replied almost happily. “That’s when you’ll Ascend into your true self, receiving your birthright.”
“Gifts?” Arya asked as Xavier questioned, “Ascend?”
Lilith couldn’t help but smile. “Tonight, at midnight on your sixteenth birthday, my loves, I will perform the ritual to call the Goddess to imbue in you the magic you are destined for. Lucifer will come tonight and he will decide which of you will be declared Heir to the Throne, Prince or Princess of Hell, and which of you will be allowed to live your life as you choose, as a witch or warlock.”
“Witch?” Arya whispered. “You mean like spells and burnings?”
“Warlock?” Xavier was furious. “What the fu!”
“Language, Xavier! I am still your mother!” Lily admonished, momentarily bewildering the twins with the normalcy of her mothering. “I know this has been a lot of information and you must be very tired. I am so sorry for keeping this from you… I should have told you sooner, I just didn’t see how to do it without stealing the remaining innocence you had… and shattering your world.” She kissed both of her children on the forehead. “Go get some sleep, we’ll talk later.”
Lilith walked out of the kitchen, with a last glance at her children, who hadn’t moved. Still sitting dazed, Arya thought back to earlier when she and Latoya had wished for magical powers. Be careful what you wish for, she thought to herself.