Sky returns to Sydney on a personal mission – but why is he traveling incognito?
This excerpt describes events that take place immediately following the Aster Prequel Trilogy.
The spell wouldn’t last long; Sky knew that. Not that it mattered. He didn’t need to look this way for more than an hour anyway.
Back in Sydney, on a well-deserved holiday after the events in the Grand Canyon and Brazil, Sky made his way through the streets he knew so well. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt that covered his Band, Sky was completely unrecognisable as the Aster of Speed and Flight. Now he was just like every other Australian guy in the city. Exactly the way she knew him before he was forced to leave her forever.
Sky stopped in front of a little restaurant in one of the quieter side-streets off the main road. He looked at himself in the door’s darkened glass and raked his fingers through his spelled brown hair. His eyes weren’t their natural blue colour anymore either. He’d used magic to make them brown. He’d changed his bone structure, too. Nothing too major; just enough that if she were to picture the blonde hair and the deep blue eyes, she still wouldn’t recognise him.
Sky looked plain; nothing special. Just another face in the crowd.
Without hesitating for another moment, Sky pushed through the door and entered. He took a seat at one of the lower tables near the bar and looked around the restaurant.
He knew he wouldn’t see her immediately. If she still worked here, she’d be in the kitchens.
Sky hadn’t been here in over a year. He hadn’t been allowed off the island long enough to make sure she was still all right. Still living her life as freely as her parents had wanted for her. Free from a hidden magical world she’d discovered and been spelled to forget. Free from him.
It wasn’t her choice to forget those specific memories; to forget him. But at fifteen, neither she nor Sky had a say in what they wanted.
“Excuse me,” Sky called to the first waiter who walked by. The tag on his shirt told Sky his name was Carl.
Carl was a large man, with broad shoulders and a big belly. He had rough blonde hair and a big toothy smile. “G’day, mate, what can I help you with?” he said.
“I was just wondering if Piper was working today,” Sky said. He tried to keep his fingers from fidgeting with the leather bracelet around his wrist. A gift from Piper, many years ago.
“Piper?” the man frowned.
Sky nodded hesitantly. He hadn’t come here in so long…
Then something seemed to click in Carl’s head. “Oh Piper Matthews, you mean?”
Sky smiled slightly. “Does she not work here anymore?”
Carl shook his head. “Sorry, son. She hasn’t worked here for months now.”
Sky’s heart sank. “Do you have any idea where she went?”
“Ah, no. But she wasn’t staying in Australia, she told us that much. Hey Lacey.” Carl turned and called to the waitress behind the restaurant’s bar. “You were close to Piper Matthews, right?”
Lacey barely looked up from filling a tray with drinks as she replied, “Yeah, why?”
“You know where she went after she quit?”
Lacey’s movements slowed as she thought. “Who’s asking?”
Sky got up from his table and made his way over the bar. He took a seat and held out his hand. “Trevor,” he said. “Piper was an old neighbourhood friend. I heard she worked here; thought I’d stop by.”
“So you’re not the old friend then. Good to meet you anyway. I’m Lacey,” the girl said, shaking Sky’s hand.
Sky frowned. “What do you mean?”
Lacey let out a sigh. “Well,” she started, as she returned to her orders. “She only worked here to make enough money so she could go find this old friend who just walked out of her life some years back. Not sure what his name was. Shane or Scott or something. Starts with an S, that’s all I know for sure. She went off trying to find him.”
“She’s trying to find m—” Sky stopped himself before saying anymore. Lacey frowned at his sudden burst and silence. While twisting the bracelet through his thumb and index finger, Sky composed himself. In a more serious tone, he asked, “Do you have any idea where she went?”
Lacey shook her head. “We didn’t stay in contact after she left. All I know is she left Australia. You could try her parents; they still live in Malabar, I believe.”
Sky gave a weak smile. “Yeah, I could try them.” Even though he knew he could never show his face to them ever again. If Piper was looking for him, he knew her parents would hate him even more than they did when they had made him leave their daughter’s life forever in the first place.
“You look like you could use a drink, friend of Piper’s,” Lacey said. “What can I get you?”
Sky yanked his attention away from his thoughts. “Eh, no, thank you. I should go.”
Lacey watched him as he stood up from the bar stool. “I’m sorry she wasn’t here, Trevor.”
“Yeah, thanks anyway,” Sky said hurriedly. He thanked Carl on his way out. Once outside, the cool breeze whipped his brown hair around his face.
Sky leaned against the wall next to the front door of the restaurant. The past few years fluttered through his mind.
He’d been to this restaurant only three times. He’d known she was working in the kitchens as a chef, and even though he knew she’d never recognise him, he’d never had the guts to start a conversation with her. If he had, he might have known she was planning to look for him. And he could have revealed himself. Only if she wanted something to do with him, would he be allowed to do that. Only in his wildest dreams did he let himself think she might want to be a part of his life.
Now she was out in the world somewhere, trying to find him; and all the while he was on an undetectable island, unreachable for humans who didn’t know the Aster and Affinite world existed.
She’d be on a wild goose chase. She would never find him. And without her blood Sky couldn’t track her. Even with all the magic at his disposal, there was no way to find her without that.
Her parents should have told her the truth before she left.
The best friend he’d saved with his magic when she fell off the cliffs.
The best friend whose memories his mother was forced to erase. Because her parents wanted her to have nothing to do with the magical world.
As humans they had that right. As legal guardians of an under-aged child they had that right.
But Sky’s mother couldn’t erase years of friendship. Only her memories of that day, when she tripped and fell, and Sky had flown down to save her before she would have hit the rocks thirty feet below.
Somehow Piper had never forgotten about her best friend. Hadn’t hated him for vanishing from her life without an explanation. Because that’s what her parents had wanted. Had hoped for. And her parents had had that right.
He hadn’t been able to be her friend for over five years now. And yet somehow, after learning what he had today, it felt like only now he’d truly lost her.
Sky looked at himself in the dark reflection of the restaurant door’s glass. He focused on his magic, slowing it down, turning it back on itself. In the reflection, he could already see his blonde hair returning. His eyes were turning from brown back to blue, and his bone structure changed back to its natural shape in seconds.
He decided he would have that drink Lacey offered, but as himself. No need to use his magic now that it was no longer necessary. Piper was looking for him; he could look like himself now. And he didn’t need a disguise to drink, which is all he really wanted to do at this point. He needed a moment in oblivion. He needed a moment to forget what he’d just lost.
Back in the restaurant, Sky sat at the bar for at least an hour. Perhaps two—not that he could keep track of time with the alcohol level in his blood this high. Not that he cared at all. He was on holiday. He wasn’t needed. And he’d just lost Piper. All very good reasons to have a drink or two and not care.
How was he supposed to know that on a whole other continent, there were Disciples after his sister? How was he supposed to know that she’d call him for back-up? Given the time difference alone, Sophie should have suspected him to be in no state to fight. Then again, she would always call him. He was the greatest Aster of their generation.
And she did call him. When Sky had drunk more than he could remember. But not in the party way—in the despair of having lost something incredibly valuable kind of way. The sad way.
When Sky was leaning back on his barstool, about to topple backwards, he heard her voice loud and clear in his head.
Sky! Disciple attack! Come quick!
He’d stumbled off his chair in a haze. He looked around him, blinking. There were two Lacey’s behind the bar, each chopping limes with a sharp knife. Sky dashed over to the bar, surprised to find it closer to him than expected. The impact knocked the wind right out of him. He leaned over the bar and reached for the two knives being wielded by the two Lacey’s; finally only securing one in his hand.
“Hey!” Lacey cried out. “Give that back. And be careful!”
“Sorry!” Sky called. “I’m going to need this as well.”
He reached over the counter again and grabbed a full bottle of tequila.
“Hey, you can’t!”
But Sky wasn’t listening anymore. He headed for the door of the restaurant, his vision finally starting to keep up with him, though the room was still swaying slightly.
Lacey called out after him once more, but Sky was already outside. He barely had the awareness to check whether there was anyone else out on the street. Lucky for him, there wasn’t. And the moment he was out of sight of Lacey, who would surely be running out after him, Sky focused on Sophie’s voice, and the call she’d made to him seconds earlier.
He was long gone before anyone ran out of the restaurant to get the knife and the bottle back from him.
The restaurant would get neither of those things back.